The Meaning of Friendship

I think we all have an interpretation of what friendship means or what being a friend stands for. One definition is a relationship between two or more people. We have all heard the following descriptions,close friends, casual friends,  friendly acquaintances,etc.

On Facebook I have 358 friends. If you pressed me hard I could probably reallocate those people into various categories because some of them are very close friends, others were people I interacted with frequently in the past but not so much now, while still others are more likely to be considered acquaintances. My 358 pales with the number of Facebook friends some college students have. I have been befriended by some kids in that age group, either by knowing them or their parents, and many of them have over 1,000 friends. Apparently if you meet someone once that could qualify as them becoming  a friend. My interpretation of friendship is more complex.

I count myself as being extremely fortunate to have some friendships with people who are remarkable in that they possess qualities that make them extraordinary human beings. My closest friends are loving, faithful, and compassionate. Their capacity to care for others is compelling.

Friendships are often most associated with the best of times. The parties you attended, the life events you participated in, the organizations you worked with, or the clubs you belonged to. But for me my friendships are defined by the times I faced adversity or problems. It was then that I became aware of my blessings and the depth of my friendships.

Twelve years ago my wife and I were confronted with an agonizing choice. We are parents of two profoundly autistic and mentally retarded children and at that time we had run out of options regarding their care. My wife, who has a masters in special education, suggested that a residential care facility could offer our boys the structure and support they needed to reach their potential. It was a horrible time for me and when I was at my lowest my closest friends reached out to me and reassured me that I was a good father and that I was doing what was best for them, even if it wasn’t what was best for me.

Five years ago after a major surgery to remove a benign tumor from my spinal column Hurricane Katrina hit. We evacuated and stayed with friends for a week and a half. Not once were we made to feel that we were a burden. On our way home we realized that if we moved to the very town we had evacuated to, we could be closer to our sons. My job search began by sending my resume’ to my friends in that community. Some never responded but others went to work. They made phone calls, they sent e-mails, they basically attached my reputation to theirs by saying that whichever company hired me would not be making a mistake. Shortly thereafter I had multiple job offers and we were able to move.

Five months ago I had yet another health crisis. This time it was to remove a benign tumor from my heart via emergency surgery. Once again friends rallied. They came to the hospital, one friend and his daughter went to our house and helped my wife, as our sons were home for the weekend. Another friend drove 300 miles to be at the hospital when I woke up. This same friend was also at the hospital when I had my neck surgery five years earlier, and he was at the hospital with me when both of my sons were born. He was the best man in my wedding and is Godfather to my oldest boy. I was best man at his wedding and I am godfather to his son.

Every year we participate in a fund raising walk for my son’s care facility. Every year our team is the top fundraiser because my friends open their hearts as well as their wallets. One of my friends is particularly generous, to the point that it completely humbles me. This man in particular has made my life in my current city fuller than I can imagine by including me in his life. He looks out for me and he and his wife have made me a part of their children’s lives, allowing me to experience things that a father of a typical child might enjoy, like church plays and ball games.

My youngest son’s Godfather and his wife have sheltered us in storms and threw a welcome party for us when we relocated. They are two of the kindest and most unselfish people I know. My wife and I are Godparents to their youngest daughter. I could write so much more, as there are so many others that have embraced me and been there for me time and time again.

There is a saying that you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your relatives.  I don’t understand the chemistry of friendship but I know my friendships have sustained me and empowered me when I needed it most. I also have tried to be the same type of friend to others when their lives were challenging.

Do I have 358 friends? I don’t know for certain. But I don’t need Facebook to tell me who the people that love me the most are. They are with me everyday because of who they are and what they have done for me and my family.

About Merrill Wautlet

I am a finance professional and volunteer coach. I have also served in a leadership role for numerous non-profit and civic organizations. For a complete profile feel free to check me out on Linkedin.
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