First Word: Friends

Like the loyal family dog, true friends always seem to be there when you need them the most.
That’s one of the qualities that make them a special part of our lives.

A tough week at the office, the pressures of balancing a busy family life with the demands of our vocation, or simply all work and no play can make the best of us beg for an attitude adjustment. It’s right about then you get a call from a familiar voice that has no other agenda than seeing how you are doing. And immediately you forget why you were feeling sorry for yourself in the first place and focus your total attention on the other person.

That is the magic of human relationships that can bring us so much joy. Some of us are lucky enough to have friends with whom we do business; others purposefully do not mix the two. In either case, friendship involves commitment. It means a great deal to me when that commitment is mixed with good counsel.

There is no better way to gain perspective about a situation than to have someone who cares for you give their perspective of the same problem – usually from a completely different angle. People pay good money for this type of counseling, but it means more coming from someone you trust implicitly, especially if their advice requires hard work on your part to make the problem right again.

Over the years, the numbers of people I count among my close friends has dwindled considerably. Perhaps we have all become preoccupied with families and jobs. Those who have hung in there through the years have done so out of an almost blind sense of loyalty. Even though we all change, the acceptance of change is what helps bridge the gaps of absence, lifestyle, philosophy or political persuasion – call it unconditional friendship.

Tom T. Hall, a semi-famous southern philosopher and erstwhile country music singer from a past era, wrote a song called, “Old dogs, children and watermelon wine.” And while I used to enjoy relating to Tom T’s affection to those three things, the song especially reminds me of one of the best examples of friendship and loyalty I’ve experienced.

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While growing up, I had a big red dog named Chet I had found when he was a puppy. In my hometown in those days you could go just about anywhere you wanted by bicycle. Chet loved to tag along, sniffing out strange new territory and challenging any canine opposition along the way. One Saturday, Chet followed me to the movie, and as was his custom, parked his considerable mass on the sidewalk in front of the theatre. After the movie was over, I exited out of a side door and rode home. After dinner, and realizing Chet wasn’t around, I rode back downtown to find my loyal friend still staked out on the sidewalk, perhaps wondering where I could possibly be.

If the relationship is important enough, a good friend will wait for whatever time it takes for us to come around again. Unfortunately, there aren’t many Chets among us.