To Have a Friend
When I was a little girl, I lost a friend over something silly. My dad and I talked about it and he said that, if at the end of your life, you can count your true friends on the fingers of one hand, you’ve been blessed. Most people have fingers left over.
Back then, I thought he was being cynical. But as the years pass and life unfolds, I realize he wasn’t; he was being painfully honest.
To everything there is a season…
People come into our lives for purposes. Sometimes we know the purpose, sometimes we don’t. But they are there with us for a season—as genuine friends. Remember that best friend in high school? In college? That neighbor next door three moves ago? These friends stay in our lives until the purpose that brought us together is served. And then, when the purpose is fulfilled, the season is done, and in a natural way—maybe time or distance or interests—moves everyone off into a new season.
The friendship can be a sudden break or a drifting away. There isn’t necessarily a disagreement or anything. The season has just changed. We have changed. Some friends change with us, and some move in different directions. It’s the natural way of things.
Sometimes old friends reemerge in our lives and it’s as if the friendship never skipped a beat, or a year or a decade. We seem to pick up right where we left off, and we move forward through another season that might be for a short time or a lifetime. Again, I’ve learned that what governs the length of the friendship is the purpose of the friendship.
We have likely and unlikely friends. Ones with whom we have much in common, shared interests. But we also have unlikely friends. One of my dearest friends for the past six years is a person I met face-to-face one time. It was an unlikely meeting and strange to others that the bond between us was immediate and strong. How long will this friendship last? I can’t say, looking at a calendar. I can say, as long as the season lasts. It’s hard to imagine this friendship won’t be forever. Will I physically ever see this friend again? I doubt it, but I might. Yet, you know, that doesn’t matter. We both know the purpose in our friendship is spiritual growth. That is what matters.
Some friendships last a lifetime, as in the case of Teri and me. We met as young mothers of military spouses who worked together and quickly bonded over those shared interests. Military life was new to us, unfamiliar, and we learned the ropes of it together. She moved in and out of my life but never out of my heart. She became one of my oldest and dearest friends. We were young wives, mothers and then became grandmothers together. We were both writers, wives of military men often away. We shared the challenges and joys of raising children, growing ourselves, our faith. When she passed away a few years ago, I felt as if a piece of me went with her. I still miss her. I still look back on our adventures fondly. We had “Lost Days” with our children, spent holidays together, and she had a sense of humor that never quit.
I’ll never forget the Thanksgiving she wanted me to make the gravy and when I asked for the giblets, she was stunned and appalled to discover they came in the cavity of the turkey. The next year, she was so proud of herself for remembering to remove them—and handed them to me last-minute to make the gravy. They were raw. The third year, we got it right. We laughed over that many years, and I recall all three occasions vividly every Thanksgiving. Endearing qualities, fond memories that touched my heart. That still touch my heart.
We endured our husbands’ long absences, relied on each other for help, reassurance, backup. We laughed and cried together through whatever life threw at us. When her father was dying, he made her call me to come make his bed. He liked the hospital corners I put in his sheets, and when my dad died, she was right there with me, helping me do all that needed doing. We celebrated and mourned. We shared our lives; the good, bad and indifferent. She was a finger on my hand of friends in life, and remains one in death. My memories of what we’ve been through often get me through new challenges upright. Often, I still hear her voice . . . and her laughter.
Many seasons of friendships fall in between short seasons and life-time friends. Some we develop friendships with move away, and as time passes and life moves on, the season of friendship does, too. Or we’ll be friends for many years and changes occur in one or both of us and we grow apart. The season is over. That is sometimes painless, sometimes painful, but either way, change is inevitable and we come to accept it.
I’ve learned many things about friends. At the top of the list in significance is that friends are a blessing. Whether the friendship season is short or long or it lasts a lifetime, we needed that friendship. It doesn’t matter if we see each other every day or every five years or only once. That truly is insignificant. What is significant is that we connect when we need to connect for the purpose we need to connect. Friends are there when needed for friends.
To Have a Friend . . .
Emerson said—and I’m paraphrasing—to have a friend, you must be a friend. I have a wonderful friend who has been a wonderful friend for more than two decades. Maybe closer to three decades now. We have a lot in common. We talk through everything. Our successes and failures, our families, our surgeries, our faith and fears—our everything. Little happens in either of our lives that we don’t discuss.
When one of us is down, we immediately turn to the other. When up, we immediately share with the other. We are there when needed and grant leave when not. We see each other a few times a year, but we talk nearly every day. And we look for ways to help each other, professionally and personally.
Good or bad, we face things together, rely on each other, and if we put our feet in our mouths, we know each other well enough to know what was meant, not said. Our motives aren’t suspect. Our imperfections aren’t mysteries. We disagree often, but we respect each other’s opinions and value each other’s judgments. I admire my friend immensely, but I do not doubt for a second if she felt I was wrong, she would say so, or that if she felt I was right, she’d defend me. I welcome either call she makes because I trust her.
Friends tell friends the truth. They care enough to hear and listen, to advise. To hold your hand when you’re hurting and listen when you need to vent. They act as your second moral compass, and don’t freak out when you say, “Is this ethical?”
Friends bother to know the real you. They see your flaws and love you anyway. They are aware of your soft spots and tread lightly around them. When life gets dark and you can’t see your way, your friend doesn’t walk away. No, she comes in carrying a flashlight and candles and matches and, if needed, a blow torch. And she does it knowing, situations reversed, you’d do the same for her—or you have done the same for her, or you will do the same for her again if needed.
These are some of the attributes of the kind of friend my dad talked about being on the one hand. And he was right about that. We know and have seasons with many people who are true friends, but few of those friendships endure long enough to remain on the one hand over a lifetime.
The saving grace in that is you don’t need a handful. If you have one, you are truly blessed.
A see-saw goes up and down. In life, so do we. Sometimes in a friendship, you’re the needy one and sometimes your friend is needy. If you’re on one end of the see-saw and your friend is on the other, you can both meet in the middle and handle those ups and downs with less trauma and drama and more balance.
I’ve learned a lot from friends. What a treasure they are in your life. How rich and full they make life. How, even dead or met but once, they influence you indefinitely. I’ve learned that friendship is powerful, meaningful, and that my dad and Mr. Emerson were right. One good friend is an amazing gift. And to have a friend, you must be a friend . . .
© 2014, Vicki Hinze. Hinze is the award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of nearly thirty novels in a variety of genres including, suspense, mystery, thriller, and romantic or faith-affirming thrillers. Her latest release is Down and Dead in Dixie. She holds a MFA in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in Philosophy, Theocentric Business and Ethics. Hinze’s online community: Facebook. Books. Twitter. Contact. www.vickihinze.com.