A friend recently did something so thoughtful and caring that it left me smiling for days afterwards. It was a small thing, and very useful, but its true value was in highlighting our friendship, and the fact that I have good friends in my corner, looking out for me.
There are those who argue that you can’t rely on people – sooner or later they will always let you down. And there is some truth to that – no-one can be there for you 24/7 for your whole life. People drift in and out of our circles, and everyone has moments in their own lives where they seem to just drop off the face of the world in order to shut down and cope with a personal crisis. If you rely 100% on a single person, you are likely to be headed for a fairly impressive crash. But I don’t see this as meaning that you can’t rely on people. Rather that you can’t safely place all of your reliance on any one person.
It is those moments when people show that they have been thinking of you, that they know you, and that what is important to you is important to them, too, that really make the sun come out in my personal universe. All my friend did to trigger this line of thinking was to save a section on Victorian charities out of a newspaper, and pass it on to me. It cost him nothing more than a moment, plus the organizational ability to keep the newspaper and remember to give it to me.
The story behind this particular effort, though, is the bit that makes me smile. First, my friend had to know, and remember, that I was looking for a job in some kind of charitable organization. Then he had to think about me in that context when he saw the section – “oh, this might be useful to Linda”, and then he had to bother to act on it. It’s that sense that he was looking out for me that is particularly priceless. That’s friendship, right there, in a nutshell. (Not that I am suggesting anything about anyone’s nuttiness, at all. I promise.)
It’s those small, but reliable indicators, that really sum things up. The friend who responds immediately whenever I send him a distressed email, despite being on the other side of the world. The friends who form a small research army on my behalf, trying to help me sort out my health issues. Always popping up with a new research article or relevant webpage.
The ones who take time out from their own traumas to be sympathetic and encouraging, even when I’m being a complete nutcase. (There are those nuts again!) Even more, the friends who will calmly beat me about the head with a rolled up newspaper when I am being totally nutty. Everyone needs someone to do this from time to time. There is no-one more priceless than the person who will say, with the greatest affection, “Stop it. You’re being stupid.”
It’s the friends who periodically pop up and say “let’s do coffee!”, or drop by unexpectedly for a cup of tea, just showing that they haven’t forgotten you. The ones who drive for an hour just to take you out for coffee and relieve your cabin fever. The ones who take the time to read your blog and give you encouraging feedback. The ones who encourage you to raid their book collection, and point out (with great success) the ones they think you will love. The ones who can tell what kind of day you’re having from your hello. The ones who know how you take your coffee (by the bucket, thanks). The ones who remember the important stuff going on in your life, and show that it’s a part of what’s important to them, too. It’s just people who care about you, and take the time to act on it now and then.
These are the people who provide the energy and resilience I need to get through the tough times in my life.
You know who you are. Thank you. Drop by anytime!