Author’s Note: I first published this article exactly one year ago under the title “Karmic Friends”. I am not sure what prompted me to check what I published a year ago beyond the fact that for some strange reason I did not have anything to write about today. The first sentence rather shocked me, so I am publishing the whole piece again in its entirety. I found something useful in it, I hope you will too:
For the first time since I started this blog project I am staring at a blank page and it is staring back at me. I am thinking about writing about friendship, but it is a complicated subject and I wonder whether my views will seem too controversial.
In admitting this, perhaps the article really ought to be about self-confidence, but I will leave that for another time.
My experience of friendship has been similar to the vast majority of people who grew up in North America in the 50’s and 60’s. I lived in a tree lined neighbourhood and was sent out to play hop scotch and hide and seek with the other children around me at the age of four. I met the organizers and the bullies and the “show offs” and the crybabies right on my own front lawn and managed to find a way to fit into the mix.
I was popular in grade school, an outcast in middle school and, although I was certainly never a power broker in high school, I was at least more or less on the edge of the cool kid circle by the time I left. And yet, as much as I devoted a great deal of energy to fitting in during my teenage years – I have never seen any of those people again.
Since that time I have been someone a person could count on. I have not worried much about whether I was at the right parties or had the right shoes; but I have cared about the people in my life and have missed them deeply when they moved away or passed on.
Now that I am older, I have come to realize that I need to change my perspective on all of this. The time has come to stop worrying about who is there for me and start wondering what I can do for the people who pass through my life. From this perspective, I am as much a friend to the driver of the vehicle that I allow to merge into heavy traffic ahead of me, as I am to the colleague who comes to me regularly with work problems.
It also means that someone will be there for me any time that I need help and that I have friends everywhere I go who hold elevator doors for me, talk to me on airplanes, and send me messages on Facebook; and if this is the case, what it really means is that we can make the world that we live in a better place simply by being considerate of all the people around us whether we know them or not.
If you doubt this is true, ask someone what it was like to live in New York the year after 9II – everyone was very nice to each other because they had all experienced the same trauma and they all helped each other recover.
It also means that as you get older, if you persist in the selfish dog eat dog competitive ways of youth, pushing your way to the front of the line, the world is going to deal very harshly with you.