Sundae, winner of her first  ever conformation class today

Sundae, winner of her first ever conformation class today

Webster defines friend as a person you like and enjoy being with. I couldn’t come up with a better definition on my own but this seems like describing a pasture full of bluebonnets as a bunch of flowers in a field. It’s correct but totally misses the point. For example, this definition implies that friends have to be human and Sundae stands in all her canine joy to testify that’s certainly not true. This definition also leaves out all the friends I made on line.

I like that the definition could apply to characters in a book. Assuming an author has done his or her job, most of us consider the leading characters as friends by the time we finish the book. Some of my best friends as a child were characters from Robert Heinlein’s juvenile series.

Still, I don’t mean to criticize the definition, I wanted to point out how complex the subject of friendship is. Friendship is a complex mix of respect, trust and comradely. Although the definition does not require it, friendship works best when it’s mutual and that’s when it gets really difficult. Calling yourself someone’s friends implies several chapters worth of social obligations. It doesn’t help that almost everyone has a different opinion of what those obligations are.

As if ever changing social obligations aren’t enough, we’re also judged by the quality of our friends. Is it any wonder that friendship is difficult for me? I’m slow to trust and it takes a while before I respect someone enough to call them a friend. They don’t have to subscribe to my personal moral code but I need to respect the code they do follow. Yet despite the obvious flaws in my personality and my tendencies towards isolation, I’ve managed to make some very good friends over the years.

And there’s real point of this post. As hard as it is to make new friends, staying in touch with old friends is even more work. Friends tend to drift out of our lives because of differences of opinions (arguments), changes in work assignments, changes in employers, changes in hobbies and physically moving to a new location. When there are no forces bringing us together, it’s easy to fall out of touch. Way too easy.

Yes, I’ve lost a few good friends because I was too stubborn to admit I was wrong or too stubborn to forgive them for their mistakes but as I sit here and think about all the friends that have passed through my life, I realize that I’ve made little or no attempt to stay in touch with many of those friends. I could take the high road and say I haven’t heard from them either but waiting to hear from them is just an excuse for not making an attempt.

Years ago, Christmas cards gave us an annual chance to remind old friends that we were still thinking of them. In today’s world of email, Facebook, Twitter and text messages, Christmas cards seem to be heading the way of the buggy whip. I think I might have received one from my insurance agent. With so many alternatives to Christmas cards, staying in touch should be easier but the wide diversity of methods seems to have diluted the intent.

Over the years my friends have inspired me to learn electronics, programming, fencing and stage combat. They’ve taken the time to tell me what I did well in my endeavors and weren’t afraid to tell me where I did poorly. They’ve challenged me to write, they’ve stayed with me for the hours needed to camp a rare spawn, just so my Everquest wizard could get that last piece of armor he needed.

Friends are the ones who bring you brake fluid in the middle of the night because you never considered you would have to bleed your brakes when you changed the pads, thus setting the standards for how I try to treat my friends. Simply put, if not for my friends in life I would be a far different person.

Although I don’t consider myself a bad person somehow not making the effort to stay in touch with all my past friends seems wrong. Yet, once again, I let this year pass without making the effort. It’s not that I expect to or even want to recreate old times but these people have helped me become the person I am today.

I could finish by saying, “I appreciate all you’ve done for me by being my friend”, to a long list of names. I considered it but in this day and time, names and connections have more power than ever for wrongdoing. Nor is there any order I could give to such a list. If that weren’t enough, while many of my friends subscribe to Opinionbypen and a few check it on a regular basis, most of my friends from the past don’t even know Opinionbypen exists.

Not to be deterred, in the words of Black Adder’s Baldrick, I’ve come up with a bold and cunning plan. As with all such plans, it has a few rough edges. I want you to help me in a social experiment. All you have to do is think of two friends you’ve fallen out of touch with. If you like this post, send them a link to it. Otherwise simply tell them you appreciate their friendship and ask them to pass the message along to two of their absent friends.

In a connected society, sooner or later those messages of appreciation will find their way to a number of my old friends. I won’t be telling them in person but I will be responsible for reconnecting them with their friends. That’s enough for me. These are my friends, I want them to have the same support they’ve given me.


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