Aunt Frances, who I’ve seen maybe 10 times in my whole life says, “Hi Deb”, in that familiar way to me. No one calls me Deb. It’s never been my nickname but when she says it, I feel an immediate warmth.
Patt does the same in an email and while we’ve lived in different states for 30 years that familiarity in her words makes the time dissolve.
But don’t push it, new guy.
I won’t take it from just anyone. Coming from some people’s mouths it sounds fake, more like a sales person pretending we’re pals.
When I was a kid, friendships seemed to make themselves. You played with others who were nice to you, who liked the same games and weren’t much better at them or smarter than you. You liked people who were….like you. Mostly.
You didn’t go looking for friends like you, but for most of us, it’s a natural gravitation. Birds of a feather and all that.
It was easy in early childhood because kids are honest and honesty didn’t hurt back then. Everything seemed to be easily explained away or you just learned to stay away from the mean kids.
Things got trickier in adolescence as groups became more defined. Again, friendships developed by common interests. The band kids hung out with other band kids. Usually.
That’s when it got hard for me. That’s when we started moving every six months. A new state, a new school with new words and rules and groups. The same, but a Texas accent or Marylands urban lifestyle or Utah’s snow for four months and learning what LDS meant.
When the moving became a pattern I stopped trying to make friends. It never came easy anyway. What was the point when we were going to move again.
I get a little envious when I hear people talk about having friends since kindergarten or high school. Maybe that’s why my brother and I are so close or my cousin who’s 5 years my junior. There’s not a time when they haven’t been part of my memory. We share something that no one else is part of.
When we entered full time ministry it meant we’d be moving again. But during that time the internet came along and friends that I’ve made haven’t been lost to distance.
Keeping up with others through Facebook, however, isn’t a substitute for being in the same space that warms with their presence. Social media is better than the days of long distance phone calls and waiting for a letter to arrive in the post. Maybe not better, just more immediate and that often seems better.
For me, friendship is best lived face to face, as you are with those who get you. They get my opinionated remarks, my taste in music, my casual style, my love of sweet tea and funny stories and deep talks.
It is often this small group of friends who help me through life. All of them from a distance, but we’re constantly creating space for grace.
Maybe the words of that James Taylor song we grew up with are right:
“You just call out my name
and you know wherever I am
I’ll come running to see you again.
Winter, spring, summer or fall,
all you have to do is call and I’ll be there…..
you’ve got a friend.”