People often talk of friends. They have Facebook ‘friends’, and work friends, and usually, a best friend. But what of ‘real’ friends?
I have been blessed with an abundance of friends. I hope that this is because I have been nice to know, at least on occasion. Perhaps they stick with me despite my faults, as they have character, and I might be worth the effort. I once said, that the definition of a true friend is this. You could arrive one night, covered in blood, with no money, and no decent explanation for your condition. Nonetheless, they would take you in, feed you, give you a comfortable bed for the night, asking no questions, despite their anxieties. You might have done a murder, borne witness to a crime, or been the victim of something unspeakable. Your presence was the only explanation needed. A true friend requires no more.
Luckily, I have never had to test this qualification, though at times, I have been close. Whatever the situation, be it marriage break-up, problems at work, or medical dilemmas, I have always been well-served by my friends. The friends in my life fall into distinct categories. There are school friends, from childhood, and friends from later years, early teens, and first jobs. Then there are the later friends. made through marriage or relationships, and perhaps forged by shared experiences, at work, or elsewhere. Recently, I have added the short list of Blogging friends. Those who have stuck with my life on the blog, through bad posts, as well as good. Shared interests or opinions, or the exact opposite, their friendship has value too.
From my days at school, I can count at least five friends. Classmates, and teachers, people I have known and loved, for more than fifty years. They forgive all life’s changes, and stay with you, for the long haul. They are the platform on which I base the concept of friendship, the root of all ideas and conceptions of that word. Following on, there are the friends from my formative years. They also number less than ten, but are no less valued for that. It is never a good idea, to call too many ‘friend’. They will not prove to be so, down the line. After numerous jobs, too many to recall here, I have less than a dozen real friends from my former workplaces. In many respects, they have an extra value, as they shared things, experiences, and moments of drama, that the other friends had no access to.
Then there are my Blogging friends, perhaps ten, not many more. Those who have seen something in my writing, or have sympathetic ideas. They stick with me, through bad times, indifferent posts, and the ceaseless moans. They like, comment, read, and ruminate. Then they post themselves, delightful articles or photos, their life on a page, for all to see. They are a small group, but though they may not be aware, they mean a great deal to me.
So, I am rich indeed. I have friends from my youth, others from my teens, and many who have endured through my entire life. There are those I have worked with, and shared experiences, often unspeakable, and too extreme to recall here. I have some who were once neighbours, one who started as a paying guest, and at least two who speak another language. There are some, a few, who no longer live in the UK, and many that I have not seen for more than ten years, but I am still content to call friend. There are some of the opposite sex, proving that we can be friends, without sexual encounters, or entanglements. I relish the thought of these friendships, each one unique, in its own way. Whatever else has happened in my life, they are the constant; the theme to my existence as a human, and my proof that there is something beyond comment, appearance, or supposition.
We may not agree on things, and we may have differing experiences; or partners who we cannot get on with. But we endure, we value, and we cherish. This is what human existence is all about, and I applaud it. I am indeed fortunate.
I feel that I should add, for those of you with good memories, that I posted a very similar piece, ‘Friends and Contacts’, about fifteen months ago. I just added this, for the new readers, after reflecting on the subject once more. Apologies for what may appear to be a duplication; it isn’t really, more like a reminder.