A Better Friend Than Most
I went swimming in our pool for the first time of the summer. Eighty degree water in an eighty five degree night felt cool but refreshing on skin that’s been sitting in a stagnant haze of June.
I’m not a strong swimmer. Compared to most people in the world, I am quite weak. I don’t put my face in while doing laps, my feet sink when I lay on my back, I wheeze and splutter and dread being pushed under. But I still swim and enjoy swimming. But I’m nowhere close to the best and won’t be before I die.
I love painting. I take care with each stroke of color, evening out the coat and sensing the movement of every bristle into grains of wood and fibers of paper. I thrive for the vibrancy and variety of colors and am fairly proud of the artistic creations I produce. But I’ll never be the best. I often get discouraged that I can’t paint very realistically or that others have more creative minds than my own. There’s always someone with something more creative, more neatly done and more beautiful to the common eye. I continue to paint and love what I make. But I’m nowhere near the best. Not even close.
I have longed to own a horse since I was just tall enough to ride them alone. I love the grace in their movements, their power and their fierce energy. I respect their space and their need for gentility, but I also can ride with some confidence. I worked past my fear of height and falls and learned to control and work mutually to produce something beautiful – rider and horse in harmony and flight. However, I fall. I become nervous or overly cautious when I should embrace courage. I can’t groom or tack with showman efficiency all the time and I am impatient. But despite this, I continue to ride and live for the smell of hay in the barn and the deep vibrations of hooves galloping through the long camp fields. I’ll never be anywhere close to the best, but I am better than some and can always improve.
All of these things involve me and the world. A horse may have a mind of its own and its own rhythm and heartbeat, but I am a sentient being with thoughts and words and knowledge. I brush paint on the open canvas, I part the water in tiny crests with my palms. I have some grasp of how to perform. I can manage myself.
But with friends, life becomes difficult. We all have different tastes and interests and schedules and beliefs and lifestyles. We get along in some groups but not in others, and the places where our friends overlap, we face conflict. We all want to plan and spend time and have fun. But we also all want our own way.
I have too many friends and acquaintances to count. They come from their own universe of religious diversity, heritage, race, language and background. I know them from thousands of encounters and events and networks and circumstances. Some are friends with each other, some will never meet in this lifetime. I am blessed with all of them and we all share common ground in some way, even the tiniest thread of connectivity.
I love being a friend. Even when difficulties come and tensions rise, I try to be there at all costs. Whether it be three in the afternoon, ten o’clock or three in the morning, if a friend is in need and I’m conscious, I’ll be there. I listen when everyone else has left them alone and I turn on a light where everyone else left them in the dark. I go out of my way to make myself available, to make connections, to do things to serve them and make them happy.
I am nowhere near the best friend that I could be. I’m constantly late for appointments, I get hurt easily and I sometimes let that hurt become bitterness. I allow myself to wallow in self-pity and hate feeling like I’m being used. I sometimes begrudgingly accept friendships or force myself to connect because it’s what we’re supposed to do. I seek approval, but sometimes I let that desire overshadow my need to always defend my principles.
Despite these flaws, I stand my ground. I defend my friends and offer them a neutral perspective on issues they fear to face. I bridge gaps between genders and religions, loving them all regardless of their past mistakes. I accept them no matter what they have done, because if I don’t, how can I guarantee someone else will? I am there for my friends without ever expecting anything in return other than a hope for mutual respect. I don’t go into any friendships hoping to achieve selfish gain, but because I love other people’s happiness and wish to share in it. I get them gifts that are personal to them, I write notes, I try despite my laziness and forgetful mind to keep in touch. They are what bring joy to my life and a spring to my step.
I am not a good friend at times. I have my many flaws, too many. I may never be able to avoid unjust anger or hurt feelings. I may never be able to be completely selfless in my relationships. I may be late or lazy or occasionally more blunt than necessary. I may not always come through in ways they need me.
I may not and may never be the best.
But in my heart, I am a better friend than most.