Sunday, March 13, 2016

friendship

I was sitting here thinking about all the people we know, the people we call friends, and the people we consider special in our life. We, of course, have some very longstanding friendships that are significant because of their longevity. Those are the people who are essential to our life story, the narrative that defines us now and how we got to this moment. Then there are the more recent relationships that have entered our life and are held there by a rather tenuous thread that can grow stronger with time or shred into strands of memory. Such temporary friendships are more common and can blossom into full friends of lofty status or remain as acquaintances, pushed to the sidelines and easily forgotten when the next new friend appears. We, of course, have experienced all those different kinds of friends, from the dearest of friends to the slight acquaintance, through the years and have enjoyed being one of those different kinds of friend, from "best" to "barely know them" to them in return.
We are very fortunate because we make friends easily. Smile at me as you pass me on the sidewalk and you are close to being my new best friend. Once we get to talking, you're mine. Mary has the real gift, though, that attracts people to her like metal shavings to a magnet. For some reason, total strangers feel compelled to confide in her. If given 5 minutes with her, she will know that person's life story, the names of all her family members down to her cousins, all their husbands and wives, all their birthdays, their political leanings, how many devout Christians and how many devout Muslims are in their family, and how regular they all are. Mary was in Kohls one day, standing in the checkout line when she struck up a conversation with the woman behind her in line. Five minutes later they had made a lunch date and a promise to get together frequently. That was nearly three years ago and they are still meeting for lunch. Not the same lunch, obviously.
Then there are the friends who get separated by living their lives and putting all their effort into the necessities of that life. They get married, have 2.5 children, change jobs a half dozen times, settle in a city far across the country and only occasionally, think of you. Then one sun shining day, without warning, the fates nudge them to look to their left instead of to the right. And there the friends cross paths 40 yrs down the road, quickly get reacquainted, and pick up their friendship right where they left off those many years ago as if there was no intervening hiatus. I have had that happen to me twice in my life, and feel enriched and thankful to God for giving me back my friends.
If I had to guess, I would say that at least half of you have had a so-called friend who hurt you by doing or saying something stupid that made you question the value of that friend. Friends can usually get away with an occasional insult or observation that cuts to the bone, like a razor sharp stiletto stuck between your ribs and twisted more than once. That hurts. But hurts will heal if given time and the cause of that hurt will mercifully be forgotten. Tolerance for the idiosyncrasies that made you want to have that person be your friend, is the key to the door that opens into the room that holds all the good attributes that drew you into that friendship in the first place.
It is important to remember that there are good friends and bad friends. Remember how often your parents questioned you about who you were hanging with and what you were doing with them? Isn't it amazing how right your parents were, how much they knew and how intelligent they became as you got older. Parents' duty is to protect their children from the hazards of life. Vetting your friends may seem to be an invasion of privacy at times, but how grateful were you when Mom warned you to stay way from that kid you thought was your friend who ended up in jail for dealing drugs. That is the quintessential bad friend. Of course, Moms and Dads can be

wrong at times. When the kid who would be your friend that they didn't want you to associate with turns out to President of the US, they will brag about your taste in friends and they will have to admit their error and eat their words.
Let's not forget the steadfast friend who has always been there for you from the first time you met. He is the guy who will always show up to help you move, to shovel that 4 yards of topsoil, to babysit your kids on a moment's notice, to lend you his car when yours is in the shop. He's the designated driver the night of your stag party. He's the epitome of "best friend." Everyone should have a friend like that, if only to use as contrast and to make you appreciate all those others who would claim friendship with you.
So there you have it, friends. I hope this little essay will stir your appreciation for your friends. I hope you all are blessed with fine friends. Feel free to count me among them. 

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