Recently I had a writing prompt about friendship. In some respects, it’s a hard prompt for me, having taken me a couple of weeks to find the words. I’ve often thought the harder something is, the more I need to face it. The difficulty for me isn’t a lack of friends–I have been blessed by many wonderful people and I am grateful for each.
No, the words are stinging because of relationships which have crumbled or changed. It’s something that happens to most of us, and something my niece is going through now. It is an easy thing indeed to beat myself up over it, to assume that I’m not “good” enough (or any other adjectives my evil inner-self can suggest). The far better thing is to self-assess, to make changes in myself, to try to do better the next time.
What I know is this: relationships fall apart for any number of reasons but the most common by far is lack of nourishment. Starved friendships may hobble along for years but eventually, they will die.
Sometimes death is preventable. When it isn’t, the results can be devastating, as though the death were physical. If we are honest, however, there are times an end becomes desirable simply because the relationship has been nearly lifeless for such a long time.
As hard as it is to move forward in those times, momentum is far better than wallowing in what-should-have-been.
This is especially true in a world where we “collect friends like stamps.” It’s important to determine who is a friend in the “like my page” sense, and who is a flesh-and-blood, call-on-me-anytime friend. I have made some incredible friendships online, but those relationships have been greatly enhanced by meeting in person just once. It is possible to build a real community online, but it still takes face-to-face type effort.
And that’s why today I’m introducing you to a longtime friend of mine. Elaine has been in my life since high school (why yes, that IS a long time ago. Thank you for noticing). She is brilliant at a great many things. She’s probably the best administrator and networker I know, and she doesn’t have to rely on the computer to do it. She reaches out to people, and does so with ease and grace. She has a heart for worship, coupled with a no-nonsense, let’s get it done approach to the world. She has never forgotten to wish me happy birthday, or to check in with me to find out why I’ve been quiet for a few weeks. I have never felt she has taken me for granted, though I think I may have been guilty of doing that to her.
She knows–because she makes it a point to know–how I take my coffee, what my favourite animal is, how long I’ve been married to my husband, what’s going on with my family, and what’s important to my life.
From Elaine, I’ve learned none of these things are difficult to do. She has taught me that a friendship without maintenance will rust. We don’t always agree on things, but we have genuine respect for each other. Most importantly, if one of us screws up (and that has happened), we accept our part in it. Elaine doesn’t believe in letting things fester and boil. We either work at it, or we don’t.
We’re going to be friends, or we’re not–and we both agree that we are. It’s never in question, and there is something soul-satisfying about that.
If I ask her something online, she responds, and the only time she multitasks when we’re chatting is if she tells me. She will tell me outright if she thinks I’m messing something up, and I value that forthrightness because sometimes I do. I trust her to keep my secrets because she paid enough attention to know it’s important to me. In other words, although we keep in touch through Skype and chat, we have a real-world friendship in an online world.
That’s probably my favourite thing about her. Elaine pays attention. So today, in my little corner of cyberspace, I’m sending a shout-out to my old friend Elaine. My world is blessed because she’s in it, and I wouldn’t want to have it any other way.
Do you have a friend like Elaine? Use the comments to give them a shout-out too. Let’s celebrate the goodness.