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A few days ago, I saw a video posted online of a guide dog user being denied entry to a well-known New York club. Not only did their friends stand in the gap for them, trying to advocate and to explain that their friend had a right to be there, but also physically going into the club and making the manager address the issue.

At the time, I commented about the true sense of friendship between these three.
“And her friends refused to take it lying down. They refused to allow the manager to ignore the issue, they made him flat-out say that he didn’t care about the law and would discriminate anyway.
I want allies like this.
Allies who will stand in the gap when I say with a sigh that feels like a scream – because of someone’s actions TOWARD ME – “I’m sorry for ruining your night.””
And as I thought about it, I realized that, in fact, I do have friends and allies like this.

Just today, I discovered a post I wrote that puts into words what true friends are.
“Good friends are those who will talk to you about anything, talk to you about nothing, listen to you, cry with you, laugh with you, let you forget your troubles for awhile, tell you the truth even if you don’t want to hear it, visit you in the hospital, stand in line at the pharmacy with you, dance with you, laugh at your bad jokes, drive you home in a snowstorm, encourage you to try new things, accept you as you are.
I truly have great friends.”

 

A shoulder to Lean On

 

A few months ago, I went through a pretty unpleasant experience. In many ways, I felt like my brain and my body had betrayed me in ways they never had before, and I struggled to make sense of it all. From some pretty surprising corners, both new and old friends reached out and listened as I sorted through my feelings and my reactions to what happened. Their attentiveness and occasional “checking in!”s made a ton of difference at a time where almost nothing in my life made sense. When, after a few weeks, I was still struggling, those same friends cheered me on as I reached out for professional assistance. They made that time in my life – which was the beginning of a journey of serious and life-changing self-discovery – a lot easier to confront.

And, sometimes, friends do not have any idea that they’ve been a lifeline. When my employer sent out the weekly newsletter featuring a marathon runner with a disability, I reached out to her and said hello. We talked about what we had in common – disability, running, dislike of Nicholas Sparks books – for most of that day. What she doesn’t know is how talking about those things helped keep me together on a day where I was emotionally struggling, probably harder than I ever have. It causes me to stop and wonder… how often do we support our friends without even realizing it? In those moments where the struggle is not so obvious, how often do we unknowingly step into that space, lend a hand, and lift our friend up?

 

Ch-ch-ch-changes

 

I’ve had many groups of friends over the course of my life. Some friendships formed through proximity (school, work), others through common interests, and others through shared beliefs or lived experiences. Some have remained generally constant, while others have ebbed and flowed over the years. When life has taken us different directions, some have quietly faded into the background while a painful few have been quickly cut off at the roots. As I’m going through a pretty prolonged and complicated period of self-discovery, I’m fascinated at how some friends and I are growing closer, and viewing life through similar lenses – sometimes after long absences from each other’s lives – while others who were much closer to me when I thought, talked, and believed a certain way have faded into the background. For the most part, I really do think there’s a lot of truth to that quote about friends being for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Sometimes, it’s painful and fascinating to learn which friends are in your life for what period of time.

 

Hands and Feet

 

I’m just going to come out and say it. Sometimes, adulting sucks. There’s big stuff – like moving, starting a family, getting a new job, experiencing illness or loss… you get the idea. Friends are regularly present for such events – and if they can’t be, their absence adds pain (sometimes more pain) to those big life experiences.

But friends show up in the little ways, too. It’s boring to buy groceries and go to the post office and clean your house. Sometimes, though, you can reconnect with friends and neighbors just by doing those adult things. Just last week, Ben and I ran into a neighbor and friend in the produce store we’ve been shopping at for years. We chatted and reconnected just while waiting in line. Sometimes, a friend who works in my office building will ask me if I’m going to a certain area she’s going anyway – sometimes I am – and we end up shopping or mailing packages and chatting about life. Another will join me on a run – seeming to pick those days where I REALLY don’t wanna! – and keep pushing for me to work hard and do well.

 

“I Want What’s Best for You… but I Love you As you Are”

 

I am truly blessed to have some of the most honest friends in the world. Sometimes that means telling me some uncomfortable truths about myself – especially if I ask directly. Sometimes I get told when I’m being too demanding; other times I’m reminded that I’m overloading a friend with my own emotional baggage. As painful as these conversations are sometimes, I’m glad that friends love me enough to tell me these things before they fester into resentment and anger.

And while it’s so important for friends to love us for who we are – and I am blessed to have friends who love me for me – they also cheer us on when we expand our horizons. When I first told one friend that I was thinking about signing up for a half-marathon on my upcoming trip, the first thing she said was “do it!” Sometimes you need a friend to talk you through a situation – finding all the angles, asking questions for you to consider – and other times you need a friend to just give you the push to go for it. I’m blessed to have friends who can – and do – do both.

 

I Could Go On… but What About You?

 

There are so many other things that make good friends, but these have affected me most deeply lately. If you recognize yourself in this post, thanks for being my friend; if you don’t, this in no way diminishes my love for you or how much I value our friendship.

What about you? What makes a good friend? Have you had an experience where a friend appeared from an unexpected place, or supported you without even knowing it?

Tell me about it in the comments below!

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