These days have been hard, no? These months have been weird, to say the very least. I’ve always thought it important, vital even, to “look for the helpers,” as Mr. Rogers put it. Look for, seek out, depend on the truth that there ARE people, friends, acquaintances who reinforce our belief in Good. They are the brightness, the God Wink, sent to you and me, reminding us that we are not alone, we are not the only ones who cry, who see the world from this scared, confused, ever-changing position, who want better but aren’t sure of the first step. These piece about friendship is for you – all those people who have been someone’s true friend: who have stood in front of to protect, behind to support and beside to unite. You have changed for good the people you love, and that, my friend, is a win.
Being an actual friend, changing someone for Good, takes courage and constancy. It demands we are actually INTERESTED in another person, and I think that small quality – authentic care – is absent so often today. Our relationships have become transactional, so conditional that if you can’t give me something back, if you can’t hear me, understand me, apologize to ME, then this interaction “isn’t worth my time.” Right?
The people who make good friends don’t see other humans as objects, they don’t weigh the costs, because we’re talking about people, and a person is always worth it. They call. They text. They remember you. They ask questions. They listen to the answer. They say “oh yeah, I was calling to talk, I’m free for awhile, go ahead,” when you know they just needed to tell YOU something but didn’t count on hearing your desperation. So they sit down, rework their time and LIE TO YOU so you’ll feel comfortable crying. This is being a Clairee for someone. You’re being a Celie, a Lillian or a CC, and from the bottom on my heart, I thank you.
Your favorite friends, your “best people?” What do they do that is so extraordinary? When you think of those people, right now, how do you know they’re the ones you’d call if tragedy struck, if you needed help moving, if you had to share something so private and vulnerable and broken but could trust the details wouldn’t make it around the block? They show up. You, those great people who are friends to other humans – you just show up. It’s not that amazing, is it, and yet it is. In this changeable world that’s stranger everyday, just Being There is more elusive than ever before.
I told my therapist the other day, “It’s so nice to feel Seen.” And he stared at me for a minute (I’m sure it was actually five seconds, but for all of you in therapy like me, the quiet five feels like a solid sixty). “It is so nice, Katie, but it’s also so essential. That isn’t a luxury, that’s a requirement to be fully alive. To feel Seen.” Requirement. Not nice. Not cool. Necessary. And it made me think – how often to I make my people, my friends, my children and husband, feel Seen? Am I a genuine friend, or am I When-It’s-A-Good-Time-For-Me friend? Because that’s not being a friend.
That’s being a colleague.
Colleagues are paid to be helpful, trustworthy and collaborative. Friends are not. They – the good ones – do it for free.
How do we teach our kids and ourselves how to be a good friend, how to be changed for good? How do we live trust, openness, compassion, loyalty and forgiveness everyday? Everyday.
How do we get to a magical, I even think it spiritual, place where we say to someone (and they say it back!):
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend…
Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a skybird
In a distant wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good.