I recently wrote a letter to someone I once considered a friend, explaining why I no longer consider him one. It was among the harder letters I have written of late. In short, he was not there for me in my hour of need. He was only one of myriad ‘friends’ who were not there for me in my worst year, but he was special. I won’t go into the why of that here.
While there have been some ups and downs as always, 2015 has been in many ways a spectacular year for me. I have rebounded from the depths of despair; my family is healthy, my career is on track, and I met a wonderful woman with whom I am working on growing a relationship. All good.
So when I look at some of my friends, people who are having a hard time, I wonder how I can be there for them.
I have a long time friend who has had a terrible ordeal over the past eighteen months with the implosion of her marriage, her professional life, and everything she ever had. I do my best to speak with her as often as I can, and have even gone to the city she lives in to visit her a few times to remind her that I am a friend. And yet, yesterday when she called me and asked if she could borrow money – a sum that I cannot afford and do not have available to me – I felt myself thinking if I would have loaned it to her if I could. I like to think that I would have… but I don’t have it, and I feel terrible about that.
Another friend – this one lives much further away – sent me a message this morning that her long-term boyfriend is moving out and leaving her for a younger woman. My friend has had problems with both chronic pain and depression, and I wish there was something I could do to help her in her time of need. However if I had the means to take time out and fly five hours to see her, I don’t know what I could do… other than let her know that I am a friend and I will not forsake her. While that is true… what more can I do? If she were to ask me for money I do not have it to loan; if she asked to come stay with me, how could I let her and her children and her dogs come live in my tiny apartment? I am afraid for her… but all I can do is let her know that I care – which I do… deeply.
Yet another friend had it all a year ago… and now it’s all gone. She was engaged to a man whom she loved madly, she had a great job at a great company, and she had a group of friends who always promised they would look out for her. I do not know the circumstances under which she left that company, but I do know that the man whom she loved has destroyed her… from her telling of the facts they were happy one afternoon (she had flown to the city where he lives to visit) and that evening he had her thrown out of his house… and his life. Not a word of any sort in the past few months, except that he has apparently turned her ‘loyal’ circle of friends against her with stories of I don’t even know what. This shunning has left her depressed, distraught, and somewhat lost. I chat with her, I call her. I listen to her cry and I listen to her vent. I offer whatever advice I can. I wish I could fly down to where she lives and give her a hug, and then fly up to the city where HE lives and give him a piece of my mind (possibly delivered manually)… but I cannot do that. All I can do is listen, and be there.
As I look at all of my friends who are having issues right now, and there are more than these three, I think of what I can do for them, which is not much, and wonder how then can I claim to be any different from those who were not there for me in my times of need? Three friends, all likely clinically depressed, all facing terribly tough times. It sounds exactly like where I was not too long ago. If I can’t help them, then how am I any better?
And then I see it… there is a thread that runs through these three (and other) cases that is the commonality. I am there for them. I am there to listen, I am there to offer advice. I am there to let them vent, I am there to hear them cry. I am there as a friend with empty pockets but an open and full heart.
As we ride this wave through the holidays I have all of my friends in my heart, even when they are far away, even when we do not talk as often as we should. When I sense they need it though I pick up the phone and I call them… because I hope they would do the same for me. Maybe if some of my ‘friends’ had done that in my time of need, I would have more real friends today.