I’m continuing my topic of friendship this week – because I think connection with others is (besides parenthood) probably the most important as well as rewarding relationships we can have. As I watch my children age, I see how having friends and being a part of something – like a group of friends – enriches their lives. So I have been inspired to write a little about how spiritual and healing having and being a friend can be.
We Are People Who Would Normally Not Mix
Hafida and I are unlikely friends. It’s not that I wouldn’t have Muslim friends, it’s just how I met her is nothing short of a miracle. I usually never work on Sunday night. But for some reason, I went to work to get things ready for Monday morning. Then, in the midst of my working, I heard someone ring the bell of the Synagogue. I wasn’t keen on answering it. No one should have been there at this late hour. Seven pm on a Sunday night is certainly not my usual office hours. And I really didn’t want to answer the door. But something made me do it. And there she was – with her teenage daughter Fatima. Hafida explained that Fatima had a paper due the next day. She was required to interview a religious leader from a different religion than their own. Would I be willing to sit with Fatima for a few minutes and answer her questions?
I hesitated. I didn’t want to do it. I had so much other work to do. But I felt that same compulsion to say yes, that I had felt to go open the door when it rang. I knew I had to take the time to answer her questions. And I did. For about an hour. And after I answered Fatima’s questions, I learned about Hafida and her family. She was an immigrant from Morocco. She had come to America with her husband to finish his medical training. She had children – Fatima being the oldest. And she was clearly devoted to them. We bonded that fateful Sunday night. And we have stayed in touch ever since.
Friendships Enrich Our Lives
The back window of her house over looks the synagogue parking lot. When we were having repairs done, we found it would be cheaper to rent a helicopter (rather than a crane) to bring the HVAC units up to the roof.
There was Hafida, texting me. “Do you realize there is a helicopter landing in your parking lot?”
When she was going to visit her family back in Morocco, she asked me,
“Can I bring anything back for you from Morocco?”
“No thank you.” I said. And yet, she brought me back the most beautiful jewelry box, which I cherish to this day.
We are normally people who would not mix, and yet, today she is a part of my life. To think I would have missed that connection had I been more selfish with my time!
Friends teach me:
- To be generous of spirit
- To be gracious and kind to others
- How to receive love and kindness from others
- And of course – how to laugh!
Friends Come In All Sorts of Unexpected Places
I met Hans at a Firestone Auto Repair shop. My minivan was beginning its slow descent into decline and I had to get it fixed. Hans was one of the managers there and he took good care of me that day. Somehow we got on the topic of our lives. And that conversation in the lobby of the Firestone started a friendship that lasted many years. I unfortunately, had to take my car to get repaired often. So often, that Hans and I grew rather close. When he started to decline in health, his wife would let me know and I would go to visit him. Hans was only my mechanic – but our friendship transcended that constraint. Then I got the dreaded phone call. There wasn’t much time. Would I be willing to come to the hospital immediately?
He had asked for me to be with him at his bedside when he died.
At his funeral, I gave a eulogy about him, after his minister spoke. It was important to Hans that I speak of his life, since I had known him so well. Hans wasn’t Jewish. In fact, his brother Helmut and his sister Helga made sure I knew Hans had come from a very proud German family. His parents shared with me that day, that I was not the sort of person they would have expected their son to have in his inner circle. I understood their point: Through our friendship, he was healing the deeds of his ancestral past. I knew, because I had spent some much time with him through those frequent car repairs.
Friends come in all shapes, sizes and never in expected formats. But when we allow friendship to grow, despite differences, we grow in ways we never imagined.
Make New Friends, But Keep the Old – One is Silver and the Other Is Gold
One of my oldest friends was someone whom I had met at camp. Both of us were pre-adolescent tomboys. But what really bonded us to each other was a scary, summer thunderstorm. In the middle of the night, we both heard the cracks of thunder and were frightened. She invited me to share the lower bunk with her. I think I was in her bed before she even finished her question. Our ten year old bodies were safe from the storm, pressed together for security, under the covers. We whispered to each other to keep the fear of the storm at bay. Our friendship was solidified that night as we swore to always be friends.
Throughout our adolescence we stayed in touch. Although she lived towns away, we found ways to stay connected. We attended each other’s Bat Mitzvah, stayed friends throughout High School and even ended up at the same summer camp again (this one was different from the first one where we’d bonded!) We attended college an hour away from one another and again, stayed in touch.
For whatever reason, as much as we changed – we always stayed connected. Never as closely as I would have liked – distance and life always seemed to get in the way. But a phone call at least one a year, would maintain the connection and we’d pick right up where we’d left off.
Eventually, he transitioned into becoming the man he always knew he was. It was something we never really discussed openly – because let’s face it – 40 years ago, we didn’t even know such things were possible. When he transitioned it was more of a homecoming than any kind of change. He was never quite comfortable as an adolescent he was, as the person he is today. I am truly in awe of him: He works to fight for justice, social inequality and makes his living helping ex-convicts rebuild their lives.
Through our friendship, as it has grown and changed, I have learned more than I could have imagined I would, and it makes me a better person as a result.
I think the greatest gift we can give to ourselves is to cultivate the gift of keeping friendships in our lives. Friends heal us, inspire us and nurture our souls. Why do we spend so much time on our devices or on social media, when we could be spending time connecting with our friends? It’s something I currently struggle with.
Do you have an old friend with whom you’ve lost touch? Why not pick up the phone or send an email and reconnect? It’s good to celebrate our friends – past and present. Until we meet again, may you be blessed along your spiritual journey!
Here’s a link to a story I wrote on Medium:
Other blogs about relationships: