About fifteen years ago, while in the midst of some big changes in my life, I was really in need of (and asked for) some guidance. A recently-made friend (who was also 50 years older) listened to me carefully and remarked, “You’re not alone, kid.” This was at a time when I felt more alone than I’d ever in my life.
I’m not sure why that was so powerful to me at that moment.
Maybe it was the way he seemed to look right into me.
Maybe it was the at-peace but also serious look on his face.
It has stuck with me through at times when I needed it. True friendship, specifically when other people care enough to offer support when it’s needed the most, is a powerful force in life. Sometimes, something as small as offering consolation or a hug is enough to change a person’s path. (Neural, literal, emotional..)
Recently, one of my closest or best friends called me on the phone. Her friend and co-worker was going through a tremendous loss – a death – the kind of loss that has no words. My friend just needed to be heard, she needed to know that what she was about to do was the right thing. (Even though she already knew it was.) In that instant, perhaps even my friend needed to know that she was not alone in walking into some very painful territory. I did what she has done countless times for me.
I validated her feelings.
And I offered very little advice. (Aside from some professional knowledge that might assist her and her friend during this time.)
She didn’t need me to ask all the same questions she had already asked herself. She didn’t need me to tell her what to do.
She needed to be heard, and to feel heard.
I am grateful to have done that for her. I am grateful for the friends who have taught me to be that kind of friend.
And I am fortunate enough to have three such close/”best” friends. The kind of friends that would give me the proverbial shirt off their backs.
Or drive two and a half hours one way and install an alternator in my car in the middle of the night. Or spend two days of the Christmas holiday ripping out a tile floor in two rooms of my house.
Or spend weeks with me as my Support And Gear crew leader in the Mojave desert while I participated in several endurance cycling events, over the course of several years. Or fly 4,000 miles to meet me in South America to visit the town where I had been living/working.
Or choose to commit to be my daughter’s Godmother (and all that can entail), enthusiastically spending time with her every two weeks after long days at work in a hospital.
Sure, I just called them out. They know who they are.
My point in doing this is to remember how important those people are in my life. And to remind everyone else how important it is to be and to have these kinds of people in our lives.
Without that wise, old man some fifteen years ago, I don’t know if I could be the person who has friends like this, and who appreciates them enough to work hard to be a good friend back.