Personal Journeys with Gramma

Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.

“When You’re Down and Troubled…”: The Essential Support of Friends

When I was directing high school plays, certain students would fawn over me for weeks before auditions. Others were nervous, fearing I’d succumb to the ego boost as many do. The fawning became so obvious and repetitious that I made it into a joke. I’d come into class and say to no one in particular, “Don’t I look nice today? Isn’t this a pretty dress? How long before auditions?” Everyone laughed and the fawning stopped. I assigned parts in my play according to talent.

Some people believe you can buy friends if you’re rich enough, or intimidate people into being your friends, if you’re powerful enough. What they don’t understand is they don’t have friends when they’re done buying and bullying. They have minions whose loyalty comes and goes with the benefits to be gained or lost. If you’re in trouble, they disappear. You earn friends the same way you earn respect. My mother used to tell me you make friends by being a friend.

Friends may seem like a personal indulgence…when you don’t need them. But who never needs friends? Some pretend they’re too self-sufficient to need them, but they’re wrong. The day comes. Inevitably.

According to corroborated news reports summarized by Rachel Maddow, the U.S. administration abruptly banned entry to the country to all citizens of Chad (among other countries), an African country that had been our fierce, competent comrade in fighting Islamic militants. Homeland Security said their paperwork wasn’t in sufficient order. Soon after, Chad abruptly removed its troops from neighboring Niger. Not long after that, four members of our elite forces—on what was believed to be a routine mission in Niger—were ambushed and murdered by Islamic militants. No one was there to warn them or to fight beside them. The French arrived too late.

You can’t keep friends by deliberately belittling them to bolster your ego—even if you’re theoretically the most powerful person on the planet. You can’t keep friends by ignoring those you think are less important than you are when they’re inconvenient—such as Puerto Rico or Mexico. My best back-ups when I was teaching were the principal’s secretary and the head of maintenance. They made my events work. I always try to appreciate the people around me. Their efforts make my world better and I do what I can to return the favor. Earning friends requires reaching out to help even when you don’t see how it will ever benefit you—whether you’re reaching across town or across seas.

We don’t always know who our most needed friends are. Now and then we’re surprised to suddenly notice we’re being suspended above disaster by unexpected hands. I have been. I used the wit and wisdom of several people in this country and abroad to assist me in completing my latest novel. Once, when our home was threatened by fire, friends called from across the continent to see if my husband and I or our animals needed a place to stay. I honor all those who have stood up for me behind the scenes without telling me. Thank you. Muchas gracias. Merci. I’ll gladly pay the friendship forward. I charge my government to do the same.

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