Today I have to speak about friendship. I just signed a wedding card for my niece, the daughter of my next younger brother. Her chosen partner is a quiet, kind, intelligent man and I can see why she wants to marry him. I can see why he wants to marry her. I feel they are going to be more together than they could collectively be apart. And isn’t that why we make and keep friends?
Friends are the ones who will honestly tell us when we are screwing up and don’t know it. And you know what, if you are still friends after that revelation, they are a true friend. Friendship means respect, respect for each other’s opinions, viewpoints and shortcomings. Although I don’t think any of us like to be told we are messing things up, if a friend comes along, reveals this and then things get better, isn’t that better than everyone staying silent, the problem still being there at the end and no one feeling any sense of satisfaction? Be truthful, how many times when a friend let you know that you were messing did you already know that? Maybe you didn’t know how to correct it and likely your friend offered a bit of coaching in that regard.
Real friendship endures. It endures challenge, adversity, poor reaction and time. In my experience, these things tend to make the bond between friends stronger, more significant, a virtual rope that you grow, one you know you can use to pull yourself out of any mess you get yourself into (or haul on as you help your friend get out of (another?) mess). It is a lifeline, a source of confidence, a great comfort.
I have a friend, whom I won’t name, Mark would be embarrassed if I mentioned his name. We met a long time ago, back in the late 80s when we both ended up on an organizing committee putting together a software users group. Neither of us was a strong computer user although both of us used them everyday in our work. We had a common goal of becoming stronger users. We worked on that project for about two years and I think we did a bang up job of it. We had a reasonable following, attracted some very skilled users and we got to apply a lot of our individual skills, gaining a sense of accomplishment and a mutual respect.
That project, and the user group itself, are both a long way in the past but the bonds we forged as we worked and learned together and got to know each other has resulted in a friendship that endures today. We live in different parts of the country and don’t get together as often as we like but when we do, the years between seem short and we dive right back into the things that are important. I thank the computer age for email and Facebook and Skype that allow the times between face-to-faces to remain filled with the constant detail and activities of our separate lives because I find comfort in knowing that my friend is generally only a few keystrokes away. When we really need each other, we can get together even if it is just for a brief conversation. I know my life has been rich because of Mark’s involvement in it.
Here’s to friends, may they always be plenty, may everyone have at least one that is exceptional and may we all find the way to contribute so we are that exceptional one for someone else. I wish this today, especially for my niece and her chosen.