The Gift of Friends

In a recent Facebook post, Jess Middendorf mentioned a Christmas phone call he and his wife Susan received from their lifelong friends Eugene and Faye Stowe, now in their 90’s.

Jess wrote, “They called saying that rather than send cards through the mail this year, they would call some friends to personally wish them a Merry Christmas. The conversation was a recollection of our many contacts through the years, and some very special memories we all share.”

How often do you receive a call like that?  ‘Hello, thinking about you, wishing you the best.’  Jess concluded his Facebook post – Christmas has taken on a fresh glow in our home!!”

A simple phone call, a hand-written letter, a conversation over coffee or lunch will do that.

After a pilgrimage to Greece following his retirement, Daniel Klein wrote Travels with Epicurus, reflecting on the pleasure that comes from being with companions “without wanting anything from them.”

On the job,” he wrote, “our colleagues are first and foremost means to an end, as so are we.”

He continued, “Wanting nothing from our friends is fundamentally different from the orientation of a person who is still immersed in professional life and its relationships.”

Perhaps that’s why some leaders, if not all of us are lonely at times.   Friendship is impossible if we are friendly to the people around us as means to our own ends or if we sense that we are being friended as means to an end.

We have a limited number of lifelong friends.   We don’t get anymore, fortunate to have even one or two as we age. While new friends may come along we can’t start over and build relationships that extend over the decades, people with whom we share history from youth to old age.

One of the most storied friendships in literary history was between the French philosopher Montaigne (1553-1592) and Etienne de La Boétie. In his essay “On Friendship” Montaigne explains their close bond very simply: “Because it was he, because it was I.”

A friendship like that is its own reward.

Perhaps it is time to make that call.   As Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) wrote – “Rings and other jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself.”

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3 Responses to The Gift of Friends

  1. tom rose says:

    I liked what you wrote Tom, and in terms of life long friends Dorcey and I have few other than relatives. She has a sister she is very close to and I have a first cousin, and I have one other friend from childhood and some relatives I am not close to. As we get older so many of our old friends are gone. I have a good friend from college and some friends from graduate school, and we have made some new friends in Florida, but my best friend I row with will probably not be here in a year. We both enjoy meeting new people through our synagogue and exercise groups, but sadly as you point out they will not be life long friends. Tom

  2. verne ward says:

    Thank you for this post Tom, what you write about is significant for all of us, including young people longing to affect change and make some impact with their lives. We all need a friend for the journey that offers presence and only asks for the same.

  3. Fred Fullerton says:

    Thanks so much for this post Tom! Jess’ Facebook post about Dr. Stowe’s call was a blessing to read. Substantive friendships are indeed a small number but worth their weight in gold… Thanks again and have a blessed Christmas!

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