"Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art. It has no survival value, rather it is one of those things that give value to survival." -- C.S. Lewis

There are many endearing titles in the English language. I like the word "friend." The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as "a person whom one knows, likes and trusts."

Like most folks, I've made a lot of friends over my lifetime. Among my earliest friends were the kids I grew up with in West Oakland. We played kick-the-can and capture the flag, shot marbles in an empty lot across from the Christian Friendship Center, sat for hours watching double feature films at the Star Theater and fished for smelt in the murky estuary water a stone's throw from Chinatown.

As friends we were inseparable. But don't bother asking me their names. I wouldn't recognize them now even if I saw them as they were then!

Moving to a new community and school when I enrolled as an eighth-grader meant making new friends. As a minority in an all-white school, adjusting to new surroundings and classmates proved to be a challenge.

I must've been a novelty, especially to those students who had never seen an Asian before.

What seemed to break the ice between us was my competitive ability in sports, especially for someone smaller than most of the other students. Putting fourth that extra effort helped me intermingle more readily with my peers and facilitated my preparation for the adult world.


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Except for our 50th high school reunion that my wife and I attended, I have been in contact with only one former student after graduating in 1950. My fellow classmate and friend, Don Auslen, was among the first students to welcome me and has kept in regular touch over the years.

If there was a time in my life that bonding helped, it was during my two years in military service. Immediately after graduating from college, I was drafted along with other graduates and received our training at Fort Ord before being assigned to permanent stations in the Far East.

As luck would have it, eight of the recruits I trained with served alongside me the entire time. Although we all went our separate ways after discharge, I still hear from one of them who lives in New York. He usually ends his well wishes with a promise that we should "get together sometime in the new year."

And although it doesn't appear likely to happen, I look forward to receiving his annual warm sentiments and hope one day to hear from our other army buddies while we are still able to move about.

My career in corrections, spanning some 40 years, brought me in contact with countless folks around the state, many whom I befriended, while working in several locations around Northern California.

After being on the job so many years, it would seem that I was ready for retirement. Not so. Like the deep sea diver who had been underwater too long and required a stint in the decompression tank to recover, I dropped by the office periodically to keep in touch until one day a young lady I didn't recognize sitting at the reception desk asked for my identification and who I was there to see.

I realized then it was time to move on!

I occasionally hear from some of the old-timers and a few of them send greeting cards during the holidays. But even those are getting fewer and fewer with the passage of time.

I don't possess a lot of material wealth. On the other hand, I have assets that the richest people covet. The next milestone anniversary my wife and best friend Mary and I are celebrating will be golden. I still have my health and no major ailments.

I'm surrounded by a loving family, including my namesake and soon-to-be 8-year-old grandson, who is the jewel of our family. I leave behind an uninterrupted professional career that spanned four decades. And I can name a host of wonderful friends and spiritual advisers who've seen me through my best and worst times.

This is what Albert Einstein had to say about lasting friendships: "In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit."

Food for thought as we enjoy the holiday season!

Eizo Kobayashi is a Concord resident and a member of the Concord Senior Citizens Club. Contact him at columns@bayareanewsgroup.com.