Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Friendship Paths and Prizes

I have been thinking a lot about friendship lately. I think that I have been taking too many people for granted. Not just today’s friends, but friends from my past.

I recently got back in touch with a friend from my hometown who really meant a lot to me. Even though he meant that much to me, somehow, we lost touch. Somehow, I lost touch. For years, he occasionally called my mom’s house to reach me or my brother, John. She would update him on how to reach one or the other of us, and he would call us wherever we were living at the time. I never reciprocated-until now. I looked him up on facebook and have been touching base with him now and then for the past few weeks. Granted, it is nowhere near the three hour phone conversations we used to have a couple of times a week when we were young, but it is good to be back in touch.

Something that I need to tell him, that I never told him before, is that he is one of the reasons that I am alive today. When I met him, I had very little sense of self-worth and often wondered if the world might be better without me in it. He helped me to know that I had some worth in this world. And, he is the reason that I got involved in the church that I went to in high school, where I found other people who valued me as a person, as a unique individual with a brain and a heart and a soul that was my own and valuable to this world. I don’t think I ever told Brian that he helped to save my life.

Church once again plays an important part in my perceptions of myself, and once again, transformative friendships are essential to that experience. Although I no longer consider myself a Christian, and go to a church where more people are likely to call themselves Humanist than Christian, that loving sense of community and welcome are very similar. I still get that “Cheers” bar feel where everyone knows my name that I used to get at my high school church. (I also used to get that when I lived in Lansing, when I’d go to dances at the Center, or to a couple of the gay bars in town. Now I know no one there and get those feel-good moments at UUCF.)

I have heroes there who are transforming our troubled community one garden, one workshop, one bowl of food and one load of recycling at a time. I have heroes there who helped me through my cancer days with Reiki treatments, massage, meals, verbal encouragement, help with the yard work, and just plain being. I have heroes that I have gotten to know through there who are struggling with health or aging issues and who still find energy and love enough to share with me and with others in their lives through words and work. I have heroes there who have not only encouraged me to finally go back and finish my bachelor’s degree, but also have been helping me pay for it. I have the confidence there to get up in the pulpit and be myself and speak my mind and heart and not feel that I have to conform to someone else’s ideal of who they think I should be. I feel honored to be among people who are willing to pick up rakes, shovels, clippers and chainsaws when they know that someone is in need, as several good people that I know through church did for some friends last week.

In short, I guess that today, I just wanted to say thank you to all of you in my life who have extended friendship toward me-whether just for a moment or a lifetime. I too often forget to express how much you mean to me. Thank you.

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