Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Defining Friendship

When you part from your friend, you grieve not; For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.
-Khalil Gibran, The Prophet

As I write this, my daughter is playing for the second straight hour in the Chick- Fil- A playground.  She is on her third or fourth turn over of kids. I have always admired her ability to see any other child as an opportunity for friendship.

I went to a business dinner last week with some of my husband’s clients. A retired couple in their sixties. Two former school teachers who had spent a combined sixty odd  years teaching at the same school. Although we didn’t have a lot in common, they were pleasant. It was a comment in passing that fascinated me about the wife. She mentioned that she still has pen pals. Two of them. She met them through classified ads for pen pals in a teen magazine while in high school some forty five years ago. Like clock work, she writes on the first, her pen pals write on the 15th of every month.  I think I made her uncomfortable with all my questions. Do you consider friends who live nearby closer friends? Does anyone know you as well as your pen pals? Did you save the letters? No, she didn’t save the letters. Yes, she has met her pen pals once when she happened to be traveling to that part of the country. Yes, she has friends who she worked with that she considers equally close. Yes, recently the letters have been replaced by emails and phone calls.
This encounter came about as two of our closest friends are about to move away. I say closest because we see them more often than any of our other friends. Our next door neighbors John and Wendy sold their house and will probably stay in the area, but will things stay the same?  Our friendship is centered around the convenience of being next door. Not to say that they are not wonderful people who we immensely enjoy spending time with. They are my daughter’s God parents. We have been together through births, devastating illness, career triumphs and constant home renovations. Our closeness has grown through familiarity and routine.
My friend April and her family are moving to California. Our friendship revolved around our sons’ friendship.  However it started, she is the person I spend the most time with outside of my immediate family. She is the one who has shared our Christmas Eves and Easter Sundays, the most intimate of circles. The one who has listened to my frustrations and my quiet dreams. When she told me she was moving, my immediate reaction was a feeling like I had wasted the past five years not investing more in our friendship.
Why did I feel the need to place labels like "neighbor" or "mother of my son’s friend" on these special relationships? Doesn’t the process of categorizing place expectations and limitations at the same time on the friendship? Who is to say that a person you meet through classifieds and may never meet in person won’t turn out to be a lifelong friend?

Unlike my daughter, who sees a friend in every friendly face, I debate what I share in common with the other person. I question is it worth taking time away from my so-called busy schedule to invest in this person. I wonder if the other person will think I have something worthy to offer. 

No more. 

I leave you with this question.
Do you have a BFF?

"Friendship" - extract from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, published by William Heinemann Ltd: London in 1984 (first published 1926)
"And a youth said, Speak to us of Friendship.
And he answered, saying:
Your friend is your needs answered.
He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.
And he is your board and your fireside.
For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.

When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the "nay" in your own mind, nor do you withhold the "ay".
And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart;
For without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unclaimed.
When you part from your friend, you grieve not;
For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.
And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.
For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught.

And let your best be for your friend.
If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know the flood also.
For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill?
Seek him always with hours to live.
For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness.
And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.
For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed."

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