Friendship is one of the most valuable gifts we can extend to another.

“To have a good friend, you must first be a good friend.”

These words, written to me last month by a friend in Georgia after learning of my loss of my lifelong childhood friend, broke out from hundreds of other condolences and refuses to leave me alone.

The author, too, is a good friend.

In today’s world, we tend to toss around the currency of calling people friends like feeding carp at the end of a wooden fishing dock. From considering everyone we connect with on Facebook to stretching a passing relationship into our once guarded legion of friendship, we dilute the value of one of our most precious gifts.

The author is someone I consider a friend. We know each other’s character, family and a fair bit of personal history. My wife and I feel he and his wife are role models for marriage — always laughing, extending respect and family centered.

He was there when a gull let loose a deposit from above, splattering across my head. I think once you share a moment like that, friendship is a natural progression.

But his words ring so true. Friendship isn’t earned or passed out like free samples of ice cream on a hot summer day.

Friends are someone you know — warts and all.

I thought about how this applied to those I consider — at least in the 20th-century definition — friends. The investment in time, love, and ups and downs all require effort on each other’s part.

My old-school definition tends to be those we’ve never really been out of contact with, always finding reasons to speak to one another regardless of what state or stage of life we live.

As for my friend who passed last month, he and I called or spoke to one another on each other’s birthday for more than 50 years. Each year, we’d open the call with “Happy birthday, old man” and laugh our way into wherever the next 15 minutes wandered. The good, the bad, the ugly and everything in between.

My Georgia friend’s words will forever alter my understanding of friendship after losing my childhood friend.

A friend is someone you share a relationship string with like no other. You’ve most likely gotten sideways at times, helped through a family crisis and known when to silently sit while they vent — knowing your advice is not wanted, only your presence.

Friends also share embarrassing experiences, many you hope would just as soon remain between the two of you. And friends, no matter where they are at the moment, will drop everything to be by the other’s side in a time of need.

And finally, a friend is never looking for something in return on their investment. You being you is all that is required. And that is true friendship.

Leonard Woolsey: 409-683-5207; leonard.woolsey@galvnews.com.

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