Growing up as an Army brat, moving every couple of years, making and leaving friends was just part of the deal. Most of my fellow Army brat friends fell into one of two categories: either you were really extroverted and outgoing and able to make friends really quickly; or you were very introverted and didn’t bother trying too hard. Either way, moving on and leaving friends was just what we did. Often. Back then, we didn’t have the technology to easily keep in touch, and long distance calling was so expensive, so for the most part, goodbye really was goodbye.
I fell into the first category of extroverts, and I really enjoyed my friends while I had them. The part that I missed out on was the maintaining of the friendship through challenges. If a friend and I had problems, I could just hang on and act like it was OK, because after all, I’d be leaving in a few months and would never have to work on mending and continuing that friendship after that. I think this was a disservice to me, because I rarely had to deal with the unpleasantries that friendship can sometimes bring.
So about ten years ago, I moved to a rural town in Ohio, where I was working for a company headquartered there. After a few years, I realized that I now had friends for more than three years, and that was the longest I’d ever known anyone. It also became apparent that some friendships take work. And forgiveness, and explanations of things misunderstood. That was hard for me. My instincts told me to cut and run, but my heart did not. Let me explain.
While my military-station friendships lacked in quantity of time, they sure didn’t lack in quality. I saw this with my parents, mainly my mom and the other moms and wives we were around. Whenever someone new moved in, the families all around had already planned out who would make meals when, and your food was covered for at least the first week. Everyone came over to meet you right away, armed to the hilt with household supplies and home-baked goodies. Families got together all the time for dinner, block parties, picnics, you name it, and we really knew how to have fun together.
And it didn’t stop there. Your neighbors became your family, they were always there for you. My dad’s commanding officer lived across the street from us in Germany, and they took care of me and my sisters whenever my parents needed someone to. While we were overseas, my grandpop passed away, and as we made our harried arrangements to get on an emergency-leave flight back to the States, all the families in the building were scraping up any and all cash they had on hand to make sure we had travel money. (This is way before ATMs.) Even the little girls in the apartment above us opened their piggy banks willingly to be of help. Once there was a young officer under my Dad’s command that was getting married, but he and his wife had no money for a reception, so my parents gave them one, turning our house into a huge luau, right down to a real roasted pig with an apple in its mouth. It was awesome. They just did it because someone had a need and they could meet it.
That’s the community I saw growing up. One where people took care of each other, got involved in each other’s lives, and made sure people weren’t lonely or left out. Even if those people were weird or eccentric or from other countries or of different races. We treated each other with kindness and respect and unselfishness. It was beautiful.
So, getting back to Ohio, I knew how to love a friend, just had to learn how to maintain a relationship. Here are a few things I’ve learned that have helped me. I believe that we really need each other. And we need each other to be unconditional in our love. I believe that we need to be honest but tactful. I believe that we need to say “sorry” and move on. We also need to praise all the good things we see in each other and not worry about the quirks and idiosyncrasies. That’s not to say that we should be doormats, either. I’m just talking about the normal, messy, real-life, day-to-day dealings when it comes to being friends. Life is so much easier when shared with friends. Humans aren’t meant to be alone in this world.
Being a good friend is so many things, that to list them would be obnoxious, but perhaps it can be summed up by saying this: if there is something you can do to make someone’s day easier, brighter, funnier, less lonely, or just better, then you should find a way to do it. Helping to bear each others’ burdens is part of the beautiful experience of sharing and giving, being vulnerable, and being aware of another’s vulnerabilities. Some have accused me of wearing rose-colored glasses, and I take that as a compliment. We should see each other as wonderful. This world does enough to beat us down already, we don’t need a friend to help with that! Even when you’re really busy, especially when it’s inconvenient, just do whatever you need to do to help; all the rest of your stuff will work out. I’ve never gone wrong by helping someone. And when I’ve needed it, those friends are there for me.
So anyway, I knew how to be a friend, just had to learn how to be one for more than a couple of years. I’m proud to say that I’ve been friends with my husband now for 13 years, another close friend for 14 years, and another close friend for 4 or 5 now. And a lot of others to boot. My husband, who grew up in one town, is still friends with people he went to grade school with, which is amazing and so admirable to me. Someday I’ll know someone that long, and I will still be friends with them.
Previous entry: The Person I Thought I Was Marrying
Next entry: The DVD Player
By David Green on May 10 2009
By auto insurance quotes on November 25 2009
By hampers on December 9 2009