Friend is a dense word. It embeds so many good things, yet it’s currently used very lightly. Frequently, we call our co-workers, neighbors, pen pals, classmates and others, as friends. This is not correct. Friends are a very special breed of people who are there when you need them most.
Of the 6 billion people that populate the globe, I have only five friends in the true sense of the word. One of them is Fidedigno López. He’s a barber who works at a barbershop at Vía Argentina in Panama City.
I met López in 1972 when he was introduced to me by Carlos Gorrichategui, a coworker at Refinería Panama, S.A. where I used to work as a Financial Accounting Supervisor.
Every month I went to Mr. Lopez’s barber shop to cut my hair. I did it for more than thirteen years. Then I lost my job. I couldn’t pay $8.00 for a hair cut. So I went to other barber shops which charged $2.00 instead. We didn’t see each other for a long time. I was having a hard time putting food on the table, and was practically living on my wife’s salary of $400 a month. It was a time to eat crow and that I did for approximately ten years. When you’re 50 years old, nobody wants to hire you.
Then one day my wife met López at a bus, by accident. Both were happy to see each other again. He asked, “Where is Omar? Tell him to call me,” and gave my wife his business card. I called him the next morning and explained why I had interrupted my monthly trips to his place. He said to me with the most pleasing voice, “Omar, I’m your friend. You can come and cut your hair whenever you want and you don’t have to pay for it.” I’m your friend, and as long as I can can cut hair, you will get your hair done without charge. Please come over. I’ll be waiting for you.”
I did. And for two years paid nothing to get my hair cut. After I got a job at a Call Center earning $500 a month, I started paying López $5.00 for my hair cut again. He gave me a special discount after I insisted that my financial situation had improved. To this day, he keeps on saying, “Omar, you don’t have to pay;” but I insist and pull out five bucks from my pocket and give it to him. This happens all the time. I guess we both get a kick out of it.
Yesterday I invited López to have lunch with my wife and me. After a delicious treat, I told López how much he meant to us and how he demonstrated his friendship when I was clean as a whistle. At one point we both had misty eyes; it was a beautiful and emotional moment.
This is my friend, Fidedigno López who stood with me when I was just a rag waving in the wind.
The following poem describes him best:
Portrait of a Friend
“I can’t give solutions to all of life’s problems, doubts,
or fears. But I can listen to you, and together we will
search for answers.
I can’t change your past with all it’s heartache and pain,
nor the future with its untold stories.
But I can be there now when you need me to care.
I can’t keep your feet from stumbling.
I can only offer my hand that you may grasp it and not fall.
Your joys, triumphs, successes, and happiness are not mine;
Yet I can share in your laughter.
Your decisions in life are not mine to make, nor to judge;
I can only support you, encourage you,
and help you when you ask.
I can’t prevent you from falling away from friendship,
from your values, from me.
I can only pray for you, talk to you and wait for you.
I can’t give you boundaries which I have determined for you,
But I can give you the room to change, room to grow,
room to be yourself.
I can’t keep your heart from breaking and hurting,
But I can cry with you and help you pick up the pieces
and put them back in place.
I can’t tell you who you are.
I can only love you and be your friend.”
Yep, López is a hell of a guy. Good Day.