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A few weeks ago, I enjoyed the opportunity to travel and attend a couple of excellent conferences with my friend, Graham. More than a friend, even a close friend, Graham is one of my ‘happy few.’ Let me explain.

The phrase ‘happy few’ is centuries old, first penned by William Shakespeare in his play, Henry V. In Act IV, scene 3, Shakespeare takes us to the eve of the Battle of Agincourt. The English army are vastly outnumbered by the French army. King Henry rallies his troops with a speech that includes these lines: 

‘From this day to the ending of the world, 
But we in it shall be remembered— 
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; 
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me 
Shall be my brother…’ 

(Henry V, Act IV Scene iii (3)) 

The next day the King led his army to an overwhelming, and a completely unexpected victory. 

Borrowing this phrase, Gordan MacDonald states in his wonderful book, ‘A Resilient Life’, that all of us need our ‘happy few’ if we are to flourish in life, especially as a leader. This small band of sisters or brothers stand with us through thick and thin. They are there when we need them – especially then. They demand and draw the best from us, willing when necessary to speak truth to us in love.  Macdonald says: 

‘These ‘happy few’ enable us to be what we have never been before.  We shall never truly know ourselves unless we find people who can listen, who can enable us to emerge, to come out of ourselves, to discover who we are.  We cannot discover ourselves by ourselves…. from these ‘happy few’ one derives continuous strength for the race [of life]’ 

Graham and I met back in the 1990’s when I was his student minister. Later we served alongside one another as the key leaders of a major (and contentious) transformation of church structures in South Australia. You could say our deep friendship was forged in fire! Graham prays for me every day, we talk often and though we now live states apart, I know I can call him anytime, from anywhere about anything. And I do. As he has and does with me.  

Kay and Craig are also part of my ‘happy few’. Years ago, when we were living and serving in Tasmania, a work colleague and member of the team I led, a youth worker I shared an office with and who would babysit our small kids, left early from work to ride home 30 or so kilometers up the coast. A couple of hours later I took the devastating call Rachael had died in an accident. Life fell apart for a while.  

On hearing the news that night, Craig rang me from South Australia, offering to fly down the next day to support me and my close-knit team as we came to terms with Rachael’s loss. I will never forget his call, and what his clear and sacrificial commitment to me meant in that moment. Enveloped in the shock of grief, I knew we would make it through, that I and we were not alone – that my ‘happy few’ stood with me in those demanding days. 

I have learned that when it comes to friends, it’s not so much the quantity that matters, but the quality. Sue and I are blessed with quality friends, those who ‘stick closer than a brother.’ (Proverbs 18:24) Our (western) world is increasingly crippled by loneliness. Investing in a small circle of key friendships is critical to not simply navigating the surprising twists and turns of life but flourishing through them. My ‘happy few’ continue to form and shape me to be a far better leader, husband, father – person – than I would be on my own. 

So, my friends, who are your ‘happy few’, and why are they your band of sisters and brothers? Who could they be? How could you be a person that sticks closer than a sister or brother for another? Who in your world could you call, thank, honour, encourage today? 

Life is not a solo sport. Life is better, so much better together. Together, let’s celebrate and cultivate our ‘happy few’. 

Every blessing,

Rev Stu Cameron
CEO and Superintendent, Wesley Mission

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