Monday, April 11, 2011

Remembering What It Means to Be a Friend

Friend (noun) 1. a person known well to another and regarded with liking, affection, and loyalty; an intimate                              --World English Dictionary

“Oh…the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful [friend] will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.”  --Dinah Craik

            So as of this morning I have 176 friends. YES! How about that!?  OK, at least on Facebook, I have 176 friends.  According to Facebook statistics I’m actually an overachiever.  The average Facebook user has 130 friends.  13.3 million “friends”—that’s the Facebook friend record, though its kind of odd given all those folks are “friends” with Michael Jackson. Five-hundred million plus “friends”—that’s how many folks use this ubiquitous social media sight.  Add in the two other major online “friend” sites Twitter (106 million tweeter “friends”) and LinkedIn (60 million business “friends”) and it’s apparent that more so than ever before, we are awash in “friends”, at least electronically.
            New language has even evolved to define cyber-friendship.  “Friending”: when you ask someone to be your Facebook buddy.  “Un-friending”: deleting someone out of your Facebook tribe.  Or my personal favorite, as defined by the online Urban Dictionary. “An Unfriendable Offense”. This can include, but is not limited to: excessive Facebook postings about children, excessive postings about health and children's health or postings about every, ever-loving thing that you do!   Odd what has happened to the whole idea of having a friend, being a friend, a real friend.
            To me a real friend is someone I go deeper with beyond a quick instant message, a dashed off email, or a Facebook post.  A friend is someone who I call to help me move, the one who lugs overweight boxes in exchange for pizza and beer.  A friend is someone I can ask to drive me to the airport at 4 am and know that they won’t balk or beg off.  An old friend was the first person I called, after family, when I found out my Dad had died on a sad summer day two years ago.  A friend is the one I turn to when a relationship breaks up, or when I’m sick and need someone to care, or when I just need one other soul in the world to accept me fully for who I am: warts and all.
            I think sometimes such precious friends and friendships can get short shrift in our world, get lost in all the other complicated relationships we find ourselves in. Family bonds which are always about both love and obligation. Work connections which often just stay at the office.  Neighborly friendships which too often fail to go deeper than a wave and chit chat at the mailbox.  In our hyper-busy world of 2011, the danger is that friendships are the first connections we leave behind or neglect.  Just not enough time, right?  Facebook is easy. Real friendship takes commitment.
            So the challenge this day is simple. Have you thanked God lately for the special friends in your life and the love you find in those oh-so extra-special relationships?  And more important: are there friends within your life who for whatever reason, you have drifted away from or taken for granted or miss terribly? The ones whom we pick and who pick us: mutually, voluntarily, and freely.  The ones we have known longer than our kids, our husband, our wife.  The friends who have stuck by us, not because they have to, but because they want to. 
            In this modern world where the idea of “friend” has morphed so radically, here’s hoping we never, ever take for granted our real friends, our old friends, and our true friends. So call your college roommate.  Have a cup of coffee with your childhood neighbor.  Log off of Facebook and make plans to reconnect in the real world with just one real friend.   
           God knows we all need a good friend.

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