When I was a little girl,my grandmother would always chastise me for using the word friend loosely. I just loved everybody and naively thought that everybody felt the same way about me.When I went off to college; it was the first time that I had ever been a way from home. Even though it was only a forty-five minute drive away by car; but for me it felt like another country. Every weekend that I would journey back to my city of origin, I would be full of stories to share with my family about all of the interesting people who I had encountered. Often I would reference these individuals as friends. My grandmother would quickly correct me and say , No! you cannot call those people friends because you don’t know them that well, and they in turn do not know you. Well, needless to say, I worked to refrain from using the word in Mothers presence. However, you know that when I returned to the campus, my references reverted back. It was many years, and many heart-break before I truly understood, or got the lesson that my grandmother was trying to teach me.
A few weeks ago I visiting someone who I have known for many years, shared many experiences with and weathered many storms. I over heard them giving this same advise to their eight year old. It sounded like a stern message for a little girl to hear. However, now being all grown up, and having experienced relating and communicating with many people; I finally understand what my grandmother meant when she gave me this nugget of wisdom many years ago.
Friend, is not a word that you hand out like trick or treat candy. No, it is the good china that you bring out on special occasions for special guest. Until you have gone through some things with another human, and until they have witnessed your secret trials and been privy to your pain and your private struggles; shared in your joy and sorrow, they are not truly worthy of being called friend.
A friend is the one who loves you even when you may not be lovable, or even likable for that matter, but they know it gets better than this, so they remain. Friends let you cry your eyes out or they make you laugh until you cry. They don’t judge you, but they kick your butt when it is necessary, or they simply give you a hug, which ever is most appropriate at the time. They are the ones who you talk to every day or you don’t talk to for days on end, but when you get back together the conversation simply picks up where you left off.
Friends are not perfect and sometimes they may even hurt you, but it’s never intentionally and they are always sorry. Friends have your back and they support you sometimes even in the silliest of ideas. They remind you of who you were, tell you how great you are, and help you look forward to the person that you are going to be.
They share their lunch with you and their shoes. They beat up the bullies and protect you from the ones that cause you pain. They cover you and hide your shame and sometimes even take the blame for things that clearly do not belong to them. Sometimes they will even let you drive their car and spend weeks at their houses. They sit with you in hospitals and graduations and funerals, and they hold your hand and say, “It’s going to be okay”. They dance with you, and party with you, and they don’t let you throw up alone when you’ve over done it. They will go to meetings with you, and go through steps with you, and sit in clinic waiting rooms. They will pray with you, and for you. They will bring you to church or bring the church to you.
Whatever it takes, that’s what friends will do. They will love you through the good, the bad,and the ugly; unconditionally because that’s what friend do. So now I understand what mother meant many, many years ago.So in the words of my elementary school best friend as written in my middle school memory book; “There a big ship, and there’s a little ship, but there is no ship like friendship”.
This is for all of you who have earned that title beyond merit; I am proud to say, I call you friend.