The year was 1992. Two friends. An agreement. It was a sealed by a handshake, but thrived on integrity - that was how it used to be. A simple handshake between friends was enough testament for a contract - well, the better word would be a covenant. They did not need any legal documentation as evidence of their trust and love, for what truly mattered was a handshake, and for nearly 30 years, when it came time to honor that handshake, he did. I am even surprised that he remembered the handshake - the covenant they made to each other. This is good news all over.
For me, the good news is not so much about the money, as wonderful as it may be, but that after all these years, a simple handshake between two friends meant a lot more than money or any material gift we can all dream about. Situations like that test the loyalty and fidelity of friendship and, more importantly, the covenant that we have with another. This is good news.
And it is good news precisely because we live in a culture where loyalty is under threat, we live in a culture where friendship no longer commands as much depth as it used to, we live in a culture where covenants are not as much valued as they used to be, and we live in a culture where we many are suspicious about each other, not really sure about the intentions of friends and loved ones. Since this story broke, I have asked myself, "How many of us would have kept the covenant?" The story is also about a promise to share, a simple promise to share the prize of a winning lottery ticket. Would you have willingly called your friend, one whom you made a pact with in 1992 that whoever wins the Powerball lottery will split the money with the other?
This is a story of two friends: Thomas Cook and Joe Feeney. Nearly thirty years after making a covenant, and sealing it with a handshake, it happened. Joe called Thomas and broke the news to him. Did Joe hesitate about changing his mind? I do not know, and I do not think so, for people who have a high sense of loyalty and integrity hardly question what they know and believe to be right. And that is good news because we still have people around who value and adhere to the covenant they make.
Covenants are sacred. They are built on the trustworthiness of the parties involved. There is no element of force, coercion, or undue influence by one party. This is also good news, because any element of force can invalidate the covenant. If you will recall the beginning stories of the Old Testament, God did not establish a contract with the people of Israel. Theirs was a covenant - one between God and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and their descendants. It was a covenantal relationship which was premised on God’s trustworthiness, and the fidelity of the people.
In the Old Testament reading this past Monday - Joshua 24:16 - Joshua, in his farewell address to the people of Israel, used a stone as a witness to the promises that the people of Israel made. Those promises were meant to reinforce the covenant that they have with God. This is also good news.
A few days ago, a friend sent me an article: “Why Sharing Good News Matters.” One of the claims of the article is that even in pre-COVID-19 world, the constant hearing of negative news stories had some detrimental effect on people. That may explain why many people do not watch the news as much any more. The solution, then, is that “…managers should suggest that employees set aside regularly scheduled time to read, share, and discuss positive news stories.” I wouldn’t limit this practice to only employees of an organization; I think it is imperative that we, too, hear good, positive stories like the one between Thomas Cook and Joe Feeney, the story about Rehan Staton - the trash collector who has been accepted into Harvard Law, the story about Christ Church collaborating with Howard County General Hospital to offer free COVID-19 test to 151 people, the story about DreamBuilders doing what they can to help those in need returning to virtual schooling this coming fall and, last but not the least, the arrival of Reverend Denise Schiavone to Christ Church as a Deacon. This, too, is good news.
The story of Tom and Joe, in particular, reminds me of the bond of friendship between David and Jonathan. They also had a covenant between them. And that covenant was premised on their love for each other. That covenant was such that although Jonathan knew that he would not succeed his father Saul, but David would, that did not deter him from loving David like himself. He loved David as much as David loved him. To demonstrate his love for David, he gave David the robe that was on him, his sword, his bow, and his belt. This is also good news, for true love is when love is not dependent on selfish or self-centered ends, when love for another person has no intended end, when love’s goal is love itself.
1992 - the year I graduated from high school, and the year of the covenant between Tom and Joe. 2020 - the year Joe upheld the covenant. You may also have some good news about a covenant you had with a friend or a good story of unbridled kindness to share.
Remember, each good news or story lifts our spirits up and provides us with another reason to believe in humanity once more.