Treat Friends Like Treasured Items

Our connection was immediate on our first day of law school. We now have a soulful bond that has spanned over 20 years. Who would have thought the two of us, from such different worlds, 11 years apart in age, could come together as lifelong friends? Yet we have. She loves animals; so do I. I root for the underdog; so does she. She is an old spirit, wise beyond her years. And when I met her, I had lived a life far beyond my years. Her heart is bristling with the love of all things living, and her spirit is quite courageous.
That first day of class when Lorene challenged our contracts Professor, I knew we would be friends. Career changes, relocations, marriages, disagreements, aging, failed Bar exams, two law school reunions, we are still friends.

What is friendship?

It’s a voluntary connection, a bond between two or more people that transcends race, religion, gender, or political persuasion. It’s showing we can count on someone to be there when we need him or her.
It’s unconditionally being loved, no matter what. It’s having someone to laugh with, dance with, and celebrate with. It’s having the courage to tell the truth and having the courage to be told the truth.
Friendship is trusting someone enough to reveal that side of us that we dare not reveal too often. It’s knowing a friend will deliver on the promise. It’s offering of whatever we have to give to make our friends road just a little easier: an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, a sofa to crash on, our heart, our attention.
Friends are like a warm, cozy fire on a cold, damp night. True friendship is a gift from God that we are required to take care of.

How do we get friends?

I heard years ago that to have a friend, you must be a friend. For years, my mentor Louise reminded me that if I found it necessary to sleep with other woman’s husband’s I wouldn’t have any girlfriends. What a novel concept. Yet the truth is, that at that time in my life I didn’t think I needed women in my life.  “Women are too competitive,” I’d say. “They can’t be trusted. They back stab you.” Of course, I knew that was true because I helped to perpetuate this by my own behavior. Today I know the value and ultimate unity of same-sex friendships.

Where do we find friends?

Everywhere we are: the hallway in our apartment building, our job, the elevator, the gym, the Opera, and church, and a community meeting, at PTA.
Wherever we show up, there are opportunities to make friends. Some friends pass through our lives on a temporary mission. Other stay for a while, perhaps months or even years. Their charge is to assist us along the journey in a way that only they can do. Their expertise is needed at the moment in time. But then there are those who come in for the long-haul. They share our journey in a special way, and a slice of history is created.
What gets in the way of friendship? Hurt feelings, ego, family, other friends, work, communities, changing values, change and goals, and distance. And some relationships, seemingly through nobody’s fault, just fade away. Yet I believe that no relationship just dies.
Like anything else, where we place our attention is what gets fed and grows. If a relationship has reached its expiration, it’s because we have allowed that to happen for some reason.
I want you to think about the people who you have at some in time or another call friends. We will explore what you appreciate about them and ways you can let them know, and if appropriate, how to reconnect with them. Here is your starting point:

  • In your own words, define friendship. To help you, bring to mind someone you consider – or have ever considered to be a friend. List the characteristics that make him or her a good friend.
  • Today make a list of your closest friends. It doesn’t matter whether they live in your neighborhood, your state, or across the globe. When you think of your real friends, who comes to mind?
  • Now, think of someone you listed and bring to mind an experience you had with your friend that made you know he or she was on your team. Really allow yourself to reflect on that time in your life. What happened? How did you feel?
  • Contact the people on your list. Make a call, send a thank you note, or send a card saying “just thinking of you.” This is your day to appreciate people who have been there as friends. In some cases, it simply might be an opportunity to reconnect.
  • Identify two people who are currently out of your life who at one time were important. What happened? Reflect on times past, when there was love between you. Even though much time may have passed, if appropriate, make a call, send an email, or write a note saying “hi, I’m thinking of you.”

After you have done all of this, take time to rest, recharge, and regroup. What observations can you make about your behavior? What worked? What didn’t work? What seemed extra hard? Why?
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