Thursday, May 26, 2016

Authentic Friendship

It was the third time we'd eaten over at their house since moving. While our kids ran around together exploring, laughing, and having a great time she and her two oldest kids made a variety of food. Our husbands talked in the next room. It was impromptu. They'd invited us over for the afternoon - but it turned into a dinner invitation. I was apologetic - not wanting to overstay our welcome, but she assured me they were happy to have us. 

After dinner we got up and I went to the kitchen and started to wash the dishes and unload the dishwasher. "Oh you don't have to do that!" she said. "I want to though!" I said as I continued to wash. That's when she made a remark that struck me. "In our hometown my friends always helped me clean up - but here, nobody even offers. I don't expect people to clean up of course, but it's interesting. It's different." 

I was bewildered. Helping with the clean up was literally the least I could do after this sweet friend had so generously provided a meal and good company to us.

I'm away from my family out here. Most of the time I'm doing it all with just the help of my husband and kids. Being able to step away from my house and have dinner at another person's house was a huge blessing to me. It was a blessing - not only because of the meal, but because of the conversation, the friendship, seeing my kids run around enjoying themselves with other kids, and hearing my husband laugh and talk with a new friend. It was priceless.

I think we all like to be entertained and to do fun stuff - but life isn't only fun and recreation. It's in the work, the hard stuff where real connection is often obtained. Working together is one of the stepping stones to authentic friendship.

One of my very best friends always had her children pick up toys at the end of our play dates. She and her kids would walk around the house picking things up, putting things away, making sure that my house looked nice when they left. I always assured her that she didn't need to pick up, but the knowledge that she cared about me and my home was so heart-warming. I knew that she loved me, because of this repeated act of friendship. 

When I was moving my best friend - a mother of seven came over almost every day to help me clean and to do whatever I needed to get my house ready to sell. She folded laundry, cleaned my bathrooms, held my baby, took trash out, helped me get kids to bed - all in preparation for our upcoming move. Even though we were both heartbroken that I was leaving she pushed up her sleeves and did all the tough laborious parts of getting me ready to leave. She administered to me in my moments of tears and grief, putting her feelings on the back burner. She didn't indulge in self preservation and stay away - she got right into the thick of it and carried me to the finish line. 

The saying goes, "Treat your friends like family and your family like friends."

Family works together. When a family works as a unit it brings everyone closer in the knowledge that they are a team, they are for each other and with one another.

Friendship works in the same way. Being for your friends, with your friends, life-giving, loving, regardless of circumstance - these are the markers of true and certain friendship. 

To you, my friends, I love you, I appreciate you deeply. Thank you for being my other family. 

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