Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Another Crack at Defining Friendship

When I was about 20 years old, I lived through a pretty significant heartbreak. The girl I thought I was going to marry unexpectedly dumped me and revealed that she had become invloved romantically with my closest friend at the time. I spent all of my free time with those two people, and poof...everything changed in an instant.
Not long after that, some people took pity on me and invited me to a party. I didn't know anyone there well, at all. There was a young woman there named Dianne Hay. She was so kind to me. She spent time alone with me and talked with me...helped me through the evening. She gave me hope that I would recover from this emotional darkness.
I only saw her once more. I remember well running into her a couple of weeks later at the Pizza Hut on Kings Highway in Shreveport. I never saw her again, and I have often wondered what became of her. I would like the opportunity to tell her how much that evening meant to me. She was there when I needed her, and no more. It was amazing. I may never see her again, but she apparently made a permanent impact on me.
I received an e-mail from a friend which started like this:
People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. When you know which one it is, you will know what to do for that person. When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed. They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually. They may seem like a godsend and they are. They are there for the reason you need them to be. Then, without any wrongdoing on your part or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end. Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away. Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand. What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled, their work is done.
Immediately, I thought of Dianne. I guess the holiday season brings out my sappy side. My wife and I aren't nearly as social as some people I know. Sometimes, you think there are parties all over the place and we're just not invited. Then, something happens to make you realize that friends are friends. You don't necessarily have to be actively social with them to know they're truly significant in your life.
One of my newest friends (It's always hard to define that, especially when you're talking about people you work with) and his wife work really hard at "getting out there." If there's a fundraiser or a social event surrounding a cause or civic endeavor, they go. Consequently, they are invited to a lot of gatherings. Sometimes, I'm a little envious of all the things they do and all the social interaction they have. Then, I realize that we have essentially the same opportunities; we just make different choices. So, I ponder the difference between actual friends and business/ psuedosocial acquaintances.
My father has spent a lot of energy trying to keep the next generation of his family connected. I've steadfastly maintained that "just because they're your relatives doesn't mean they're your friends." Yet, during our most recent troubles with my brother, an uncle and a couple of cousins stepped forward as really good friends. So, I've learned it's never too late to re-assess your relationships.
The e-mail from my friend continued:
Some people come into your life for a SEASON, because your turn has come to share, grow or learn. They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it, it is real. But only for a season.
The older I get, the more I realize this is true. I think a lot of time, "work friends" fall into this category. You help and support one another. Then, someone moves on and your work is done. You might occasionally touch base, but the relationship is changed. It has served its purpose.
LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons, things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life. It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant .
There are a couple of friendships in which I have this level of confidence. Here at mid-life, it is incomprehensible to me that I will not go to my grave loving these people. I am fortunate to have a life-long friend who has been with me at every major step I have taken, from first grade to marriage to becoming a father to burying a parent. I, in turn, have had the honor of being with him at times like those, as well. Of course, my wife is the best friend any person could have. She is the model for how relationships should operate.
Over the years, I have made a few enemies but have earned many more friendships. I'm not really comfortable categorizing them, I just celebrate them. At the holidays, I'm grateful for them. If anybody knows Dianne, tell her I said thanks.

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