When we honestly ask which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.
Last year, as our family faced a health crisis, I learned a lot about friendship. Some people avoided us, probably out of a sense of discomfort or not being sure what to say. No blaming-- it is difficult when, really, nothing said or done will make it all better. But other friends really rose to the occasion. Although many people attended to me, my friend Debbie stands out as a shining example of friendship in action. She sent gourmet food gifts to my son, and as any mom will tell you, "love my kids, love me". But she didn't stop there. She made sure I received cards and little gifts, just to let me know she was loving on and thinking of me.
When our drama and trauma was all over and we made it to the other side (with a happy ending), she even let me descend on her and her sweet family for a week of Florida sunshine and a healthy dose of restorative friendship. Poor lady. I think I talked her ear off about all kinds of stuff I had stored up inside me. And never once did she sigh and say, "Yeah, I think you told me all this before" (she had every right to, trust me).
As I contemplate the past year and think about the loving examples of friendship I've had in my life, I realize that friendship is seen and felt through love's actions. So what can we do to act in friendship? Over the years I've collected a few ideas, some I have learned through the grace of friends, others I have discovered, through the grace of God:
1. Notes: This week I received a lovely bracelet made in Africa and a note from a friend who had just been there on a mission trip with her church (waves at Corinne). The bracelet is lovely, but the sweet note, her words of friendship, love, and encouragement brought me to tears-- no easy feat for me. There's something about handwriting and the time it takes, that speaks volumes to the heart.
2. Listening: Easier than it sounds. The tough part, I've learned, is listening without feeling like I have to fine-tune or correct or offer a solution. I want to fix it for my friends, but that's rarely possible. Listening, sympathizing, and agreeing is usually all that's required or desired.
3. Small gifts: What is it about a gift card to a coffee shop or a pretty bookmark that perks a person up? It doesn't have to be anything expensive; it can be homemade, but a little present can really make a friend feel special.
4. Coffee or lunch: I have a friend who meets me for coffee every couple of weeks. We chat and sip talking about our kids, animals, aging, finances, and whatever else comes up. It's a lovely time together. I always leave feeling refreshed.
5. Walking: Another friend and I go for weekly walks, through ice, snow, and sunshine we get out and walk for an hour or so. Not only are we getting a little exercise, but we spend the entire time talking about all kinds of topics-- parents, marriage, faith, church, our town, trends-- whatever we want, really. I look forward to my weekly date with this sweet lady.
6. Do the unexpected. Once, a friend of mine was in a dispute with her sister. It turned nasty. All the handmade ceramic gifts that she had once given her sister were left, smashed, one-by-one, on her front stoop in brown paper bags. My friend was crushed. One morning, I got up early, bought her a pretty flowering plant, and put it in a brown bag in front of her door with a note: See, not all things left at your door are bad. She told me that when she first opened the door and saw the bag, her heart sank. But as she dared to open it, her hope was restored. It warmed my heart to know it made her smile.
7. Be there. Another time, a friend of mine called one late night and told me she was suicidal, and if she decided to take her own life, I was not to feel guilty. We hung up the phone, and I stared at it for a few minutes. Then I told my husband I was heading out for the night. I grabbed my sleeping bag and a toothbrush and drove to her house. When she answered the door, I sent her to bed to rest. "Go to bed. I'm cleaning your house and sleeping on the couch." I'm glad to say that over twenty years later, she is a lovely, active person enjoying life. At least for that night, she was under my watch and much too polite to follow through on her threat while I was there.
I think the common thread for all these ideas is time. When we invest time in our friendships-- whether through a phone call, visit, or jotting a note, we invest in the other person. There are so many things demanding our time, but few will reap the joy and satisfaction of a friendship.
What else would you add to the list to add action to friendship? Do you have any stories of acts you have done or others have done for you to encourage us and offer ideas? Let's go in blessings this week and be a friend.