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Just wait right there - Greg Gelpi

In my snazzy tuxedo standing in front of old friends and new acquaintances, my mind couldn't help but wander.

Too many road weary miles and not enough hours of restless sleep in my car, my mind remained cloudy a bit from the hurried drive home to Louisiana.

One image shown clear. A friend stood feet from me about to repeat his vows.

Days, hours and moments before one of my many character flaws repeatedly reared its head. Without a thought, I found myself asking my friend, the groom, what I could do to help.

Friends and family scurried around pinning corsages and scribbling down toasts, while I simply stood there.

Years earlier, my three roommates and I loaded up the car and sped toward Key West, Fla., from the Crescent City. Traveling a wee bit fast, the car couldn't take any more and it refused to go any further. The automatic transmission went kaput and our road trip stalled.

A small fortune later, the four of us piled into a rental car and continued toward our destiny.

Resting for the afternoon in Fort Lauderdale, we took to the beach, roamed the malls and grabbed a bite to eat only to hit our next bump in our journey.

Brought to the edge of death by a mean fried chicken salad at a restaurant that shall remain nameless (rhymes with Willie's and starts with a "ch"), I quickly grew weak, grew pale and grew dehydrated.

Out of character for me, I begged for medical attention and off to the hospital we went.

Fast forwarding a little, the hospital eventually admitted me after doctors, professionals paid to care for patients, stepped over my limp body passed out on the floor of the closet in which I was placed.

Through numerous intravenous drips and cups of Jell-O, my roommates stood at my side.

Warm winter beaches beckoned to my friends like Odysseus' sirens, yet they stayed. Shopping malls, night life and Key West itself called out to them, still they remained.

The trip we planned for months and scrounged pennies for even longer evolved into a bedridden fiasco for me and an exercise in patience for my roommates.

Through all of it, I kept saying there was no need to stay, but they did.

Standing in the courtyard along with the rest of the wedding party, the concept of friendship became clear.

As sappy as it sounds, the idea of just being there is what friendship is all about.

Friendship doesn't require buying fancy dinners or performing arduous manual labor. It just requires time, a physical presence and the sacrifice of giving of yourself for another.

Perhaps I should avoid the word "just," but the friends who stand out most in my mind are the ones who do without making a big to do, the ones who sacrifice without thought and without making mention of the sacrifice.

Speaking with someone recently, she rattled off her condominium, sports utility vehicle and other material possessions.

My only thought was that with my career choice I'm destined to be on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale. Despite this, I find that I'm more than wealthy in the caliber of friends that I have and the understanding of true friendship.

Greg Gelpi covers education for the News Daily. He can be reached at ggelpi@news-daily.com or (770) 478-5753 Ext. 247.