Billy Bump was looking for friends. He had watched the dynamic of friendship throughout his life and he understood that to have a friend a person must be a friend! Although the statement seems profound in it’s simplicity…it carries a lot of weight.
Billy, as a youngster became friends with Jeff. Jeff is Jewish and taught Billy many Jewish traditions and introduced him to Kosher foods and was an all around mensch! Billy was honored to speak at one of Jeff’s business meetings a few years ago in the United Kingdom. He enjoyed reminiscing about he and Jeff’s over 40 years friendship and his admiration for all that Jeff has accomplished!
Billy, through his analysis, had found that the best friends are those who like you for yourself and not what you can do for them. Friendship was not conditional nor subject to financial or political or religious affiliations. Friends seemed to be people that were in to you because of something they saw in your actions or words or spirit that they could relate to!
Jim was a friend. He was African American and he treated Billy like a son! He mentored him and he looked out for him and gave him his start on his new carer. Jim was a pleasant and gregarious man who could spin a yarn with the best of them while simultaneously smoking a large cigar and the, ‘smoke encircling his head like a wreath,’…with apologies to W. Clement Moore!
Jewel was a jewel! She counseled Billy on many occasions and was a wise friend! She was a natural leader and those who worked with her respected her fairness. Jewel cared about people first, whatever their race or ethnicity, and had a Solomon like approach to knotty problems and dilemmas.
Salman from Malaysia and Solomon from Nairobi were vital teammates to have in difficult situations. Their kind hearts and perseverance were without measure!
Christian, from Ghana, told Billy one time that all of the international students on the campus of SIUC wanted to work with him…because he had no prejudice. Billy told me recently that this remains the single greatest compliment that he has ever received!
Billy had grown up with primarily white friends. He had never known African Americans or people from Africa or Malaysia or Turkey or Iran. One of the greatest blessings that he had ever received was to be accepted and be friends with people from all over the world!
One of the significant life lessons that Billy had learned was that the diversity of the humans that we share our planet with…is an essential ingredient of enrichment for all that we partake of!
‘I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.’ Martin Luther King, Jr.