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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