I got a card in the mail from a friend. She wrote a little note inside saying that she was in town and thought of me, so she sent me a card. It wasn’t a huge gesture, but it made me really happy. That’s the power of friendship. It has a unique way of enriching our lives.
Thinkers and artists have been talking and writing about friendship for thousands of years. Unfortunately, most of them have had an absurdly high standard for friendship. It’s BFFs or nothing. When I look at their criteria for friendship, I have had very few real friends. I have an anthology of philosophers writings about friendship. It’s called Other Selves. That’s one of the most common sentiments, that a friend is another self, almost like a soul mate. Another thing that’s big is equality. Only equals can be friends. Reciprocity is the other big one. It’s not a real friendship unless both parties feel the same.
I question whether there are actually any set criteria for friendship. Let me tell you a different kind of love story and, hopefully, you’ll see what I mean. The woman who sent me the card, I met her when I was a freshman in high school. She was in my Latin class. She was an upperclassman (upperclassperson somehow doesn’t sound like high school anymore). I believe she had already finished her foreign language requirement, but was good at it, and enjoyed it, so she signed up for Latin. I seem to remember that she was a cheerleader. I was a typical quiet, awkward freshman. I’m decidedly not good at foreign languages. I only took Latin because they told me it would be good for me, help me with my SATs. I still think Spanish would have done me a lot more good.
Anyway, my point is that our paths only ever crossed by accident. We didn’t have much in common. In the world of high school, we were nowhere near social equals. Not that she was a snob or anything, she was always very nice, but that’s just how high school works. Latin was a small class. I want to say there were only eight of us, so we got to know each other a little bit. Then, she graduated, I was still in high school. We lost touch.
A little while later, she got a job at the local Blockbuster. I’d see her when I rented movies. We’d chit chat. I think she recommended movies a couple of times. It was nice to see a friendly face. I don’t remember if she got a new job or if I moved and started using a different Blockbuster, but we lost touch again.
Some years later, I grudgingly joined Facebook. She was one of the first people to send me a friend request. We interacted as Facebook friends do. I learned that she was married with a couple of kids and was now a realtor. She congratulated me on my wedding. Stuff like that. When I was in the market for a house, I had the thought, “Hey, I know a realtor.” She helped me buy the house I’m sitting in now. That was almost ten years ago. Since then, we still interact with each other’s posts and we send each other notes a few times a year.
I know why stories like this are seldom told. They’re not very interesting. There’s no drama, no action, and no passion. There have been funny moments, but nothing you’d call comedy. What it comes down to is she really is my friend. And that’s meaningful to me even if it’s not for anyone else. I wouldn’t say we’re soul mates, I don’t think of her as another self. We might be now (I’m not a good judge of such things), but we certainly weren’t equals when we first met. I have no real idea if she reciprocates my feelings. I mean, she sent me a card, so I don’t think she dislikes me, but we don’t have those kinds of deep, soul-searching conversations. None of that changes the fact that she’s a good friend. My life would be a lot poorer without friends like her. I think it’s about time the people who study friendship accept that. And I think we should all celebrate it.