Two pods of Pilot Whales have stranded themselves in waters off of Florida’s beaches. When one whale is sick, the whole pod follows the one who is ill or injured and stays with them. In shallow waters, they cannot forage and some will die with their friend. Entire pods have been known to perish in sympathy and support. Now that’s friendship!
Alice was a neighbor. The kind that welcomes you into her home like family, or waves at you the minute you step outside. We became fast friends, talking about our children, the weather, the neighborhood school and the rising cost of food.
It wasn’t surprising then to see her on my doorstep after I’d suffered a long illness and a traumatic experience. Others had asked, “What can we do for you?” smiled and then returned to their own little worlds. Here was Alice, standing on my porch with a shovel in one hand and a plant in the other.
“You’re coming outside,” she said emphatically. “You need some sunshine and we need to plant this start I brought from my garden.” The plant was one I’d admired some weeks before.
You didn’t argue with Alice. You didn’t want to. She had a way about her that said, “I’m here for you. Let’s work on this thing together.”
We dug, we planted, and we chatted about everything but what was troubling me. She never nosed, she never snooped. She gave me the ball, and let me carry it where I wanted to go. She helped me more than she will ever know. She gave me the love and support I needed to deal with some difficult circumstances. She helped heal my heart and soul just by being Alice.
When we moved away from Phoenix, I wept like a baby as I gave her my final hug. She was one neighbor I would miss forever. We stayed in contact for over 20 years, but the distance and our lives soon became a living memory. My gratitude still remains.
Many people come in and out of our lives. The good ones stay. Other friendships are not meant to last: the brief encounters on an airplane flight, the people we chat with on vacation, the ones who share in the trauma of a tragic event. Some friendships are meant to last forever, and some of them aren’t. Who can measure what any of these people bring into our lives?
When my own life was in a downward spiral, I never regretted the people I met along the way who made me laugh, who taught me something I didn’t know, who opened my eyes to see the possibilities that were waiting there. These people became the threads that formed the warp and the woof of my character and my life. During that time, I learned that some people are just plain evil; but that most people are basically good, warts and all.
Through acquaintances and friendships, I discovered things about myself I never knew. Antique cars, for instance; I like everything about them, the hobby, the shows, the people. And jazz; I love the earthy vibes and rhythms, but I’m also enthralled at a symphony. I like to see a good play, and I’m enchanted by Shakespeare. All of the things I discovered about myself, I learned through the people around me; my likes, my tastes, my values.
People enrich our lives and help us realize we’re all human. All in need of grace and forgiveness. My favorite saying is: “There but for the grace of God go I.” Historians don’t know for certain who said this, but the wisdom remains.
Friends can make us or break us. Bad friends are those people who urge us to say and do things we wouldn’t say or do in better company or when we’re alone. They’re the people who dare: “Oh, come on, it can’t hurt. Just this once?” or “Who will ever know?”
Good friends are the ones who make you want to try harder and to live better. But they accept you where you are with all of your baggage, weaknesses and flaws.
One of my favorite books is ” The Little Prince ” by Antoine De Saint-Exupery. There’s some profound wisdom in this tale. My favorite chapter is the encounter of the Little Prince and the Fox.
The prince invites the fox to come and play with him because he’s feeling sad, and the fox says he can’t, because he’s not tamed. Then the fox explains what it means to tame someone, and slowly and gradually they become fast friends.
When you tame someone, the fox tells the Little Prince, you create ties…you begin to need each other…you create rituals.
“For instance,” said the fox, “if you come each day at four…I’ll begin to be happy by three. The closer it gets to four, the happier I’ll feel. By four I’ll be all excited and worried; I’ll discover what it costs to be happy! But if you come at any old time, I’ll never know when I should prepare my heart…There must be rites.”
Lasting friendships! Who can measure their value? The bonds of friendship provide warmth and laughter in our sojourn on earth. Friends who join hands and hearts in prayer for our health or safety give us strength in time of need. Without friends, life would, indeed, be empty.
Alice, my dear friend and neighbor, if you’re out there–thank you! You were there during a ” rough patch ” in my life; a godsend and a blessing. I miss you, Alice; may God bless!