Friends Make Life Worth Living

Do you ever notice how certain days feel like they have a theme?  If not, then maybe you should stop and look at your life a little more closely, because they are there.  As you may have guessed by the title, the theme of today for me was friends.

I was watching an old episode of the wonderful show Boston Legal earlier today (side note: if you haven’t watched it, you definitely should) in which one of the characters says that we all put work before friendship.  While the word ALL is a little off the mark, far too many of us do, despite good intentions to not do so.

I would also add that it is not always work that forces friendship to the backburner but includes life, kids, marriage, hobbies.  It is easy to forget that people are the most important part of life because there is so much other great, and important, stuff out there.

The next thing that struck me related to friends was a video that I saw posted on Facebook.  I am not reposting it here as the subject matter could easily be misconstrued and possibly offend some people, and I never want to do that.  The short version though is that a comedian played a practical joke on a friend that played off of the stereotypes of the race of said friend.  The caption of the video was that only truly good friends could get away with something like this.

After listening to the story the caption was very true.  Were the same story to take place amongst people who were less friendly someone likely would be in jail for at least assault.  Instead, there were great laughs had by the friends as well as the people around them who saw the humor and got involved.

Once I realized that I needed to express my gratitude for friends today, I finally took the time to do something I had been encouraged to do months ago, but just never did because I am full of excuses.  Instead of writing this post, I first sent ten friends a message thanking them for being my friend and sharing some of the good memories we had together.

The list included an ex girlfriend, old coworkers, family members, and friends from high school.  Some of these people I still communicate with semi regularly, but others I go years in between talking to.  Yet each of them have provided value to my life that I appreciate and I wanted to clearly express that.

As I wrote each of those messages, it was an incredible walk down memory lane of the good times we had together.  There were a few sad thoughts of struggles we had faced, but otherwise I spent the last two hours really just smiling and being happy.

I am not someone that has ever really had many close friends.  High school was super hard for me socially, and it never really got better.  Being an introvert I find it hard to connect with people unless I can find common ground quickly, like a love of airplanes.  I know some of my friends laugh when I say I am shy because now that we are friends I never shut up, but it is the truth.

As I looked for a common theme amongst the friends I messaged, I think the one thing that struck me was an ability to feel at ease around them, with one amusing exception at least initially.  They are all people that I grew to feel comfortable with.  I didn’t need to sensor myself or hide how I was really feeling because we understood each other and that because of our differences we provided a more valuable relationship than if we simply agreed about everything.

I would venture to guess that almost none of us express enough gratitude to our friends for the value that they provide to our lives.  The original challenge I was given months ago was to find 5-10 people every day that you can say thank you to for something they contributed to your life.

It may be a friend or it may be an artist that wrote a song or a book that changed your life or helped you to improve.  It didn’t matter so much who it was as that you expressed your gratitude for that person and their contribution to your life.  So rather than ask what you are grateful for, I instead have a challenge for you.

Today, right now, make a list of ten people you can thank for being your friend, and then do it.  Don’t just send a note with only the words thank you, but take a minute to share a favorite memory, or express how they impacted your life for good.  Many of them will have no idea how much of an impact they actually had on you, and I guarantee you will make their day.

The best part is, that you will again be enriched as you relive the great memories you had with those people.  I would say you should then challenge them to do the same, but I think that cheapens the experience.  You shouldn’t do this because I am challenging you, or because anyone else will challenge you, but because you genuinely care about, and appreciate, that person.  If they choose to do the same then even better, but they need to do it because they feel a desire to do so, and not just because they were challenged.

Great friends are awesome, but we far too often neglect our friends expecting them to “still be on the bookshelf” when we want to pick them back up for another chapter of life.  While many times this inevitably happens, I implore you to take the time to instead maintain a close connection and you will both be enriched by the experience.

This won’t be reality with everyone, as not everyone is a “bosom friend”, to steal Anne Shirley’s favorite term,  but the places where we put forth the most effort will reap the most real benefits.  That is why today I am grateful for good friends that bring meaning to our lives.

Now go tell your friends how much they matter to you.

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Saying Goodbye

I realize this is usually something people absolutely dread.  I even know a few people that refuse to say those words.  While those situations where these words are applicable are never fun, there is something to be grateful for.  

The way I see it, if you dread saying goodbye, that means you care about the person.  It means you made a connection and you valued their presence.

It may mean that they were a great worker or simply a great friend, but whatever the case may be, their leaving is going to leave a void in your life.

I have had times where I really wasn’t too sad about leaving, and as I look back that is actually a much sadder situation.  To have spent any significant amount of time somewhere and not be sad about leaving means that there were no great connections.  

People are the best part of life so what a shame if we missed out on an opportunity to connect with people in a new area.

As a military member saying goodbye is a regular occurrence, though it doesn’t make it any easier.  But what it does is make you grateful for all of the amazing people you get to meet.  That’s why tonight I am grateful for saying goodbye.

What are you grateful for?

Good People

I feel like I talk in this general vein a lot on here, but I also feel like it cannot be overstated.  With all of the crap that is going on in the world, and all the terrible things people do to each other, we can never have too much talk about good people.  The awesome thing is, they are everywhere.

I’m sure many of you can relate, but in the last week I have had multiple friends pick me up and drop me off as I got repair work done on my car.  I was invited to a friend’s for dinner because not only did they want to help get me out of the house, but they enjoy my company, and the chili was amazing.  I have been given three meals worth of food.  I have had great conversations about fun things.  I had a friend buy me a donut.

I know all of these are little things, but something else that I also can’t say too much, is that it is the little things that matter most.  We will never be able to do great things if we don’t take the time to do the little things.  

That is what makes good people so valuable.  They are not perfect, and they don’t do things for recognition, but they do the little things because that is just how you should treat people. 

I realize I have been somewhat vague in this post rather than calling out individuals, who definitely deserve credit, but I am just letting my heart run with it tonight.  

If you aren’t a good person then stop being a loser and fix it.  If you are a good person I thank you for your your efforts, and tonight I am thankful for you.

What are you thankful for?

My Neighbor Linda

I got home from the gym tonight only to realize that I was out of milk, and that the store would be closed before I could get back to the other side of base.  Since I actually need milk I bit the bullet and drove over to the gas station to by some.  Since it was getting later and I didn’t want to cook I took advantage of the Subway in the gas station.

Upon arriving home, and before I could even get out of my car, I heard someone say, “Did you eat dinner yet?”  This was my wonderful neighbor Linda, and when I came around the back of my car she was standing there in her apron staring at me with some concern in her eyes.

Linda has been my kids’ psuedo-grandma while we have been in Japan.  She spoils them with treats whenever they ask, and she is incapable of telling my little Hannah no.  She is also a fantastic cook, and even mows my lawn because she says she finds it therapeutic and that I better not take that away from her.

In response to her question I held up my Subway bag to which she responded with rolled eyes.  She then proceeded to go back into her house and return with BBQ pulled pork and rolls for me to eat for dinner or lunch, or whenever I wanted.  About a week ago she showed up at my house with a mint chocolate chip ice cream pie.

While I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself, it is so comforting to know that there is someone else looking out for me since my wife is not around to do so.  She really is the sweetest lady in the whole world, and our family’s life will be a little less happy without her in it.

She will never see this post since she doesn’t use social media, but that does not make my gratitude for her any less sincere.  She has been a blessing of unbelievable value for me and my family, and that is why today I am grateful for my amazing neighbor Linda.

What are you grateful for?

Friends That are Honest

Life is full of so many choices and decisions that can often be quite challenging.  In many cases we know people that have had to make similar decisions and they can be our greatest asset.

In conjunction with yesterday’s post I reached out to a couple of friends to get their opinion of the situation and their advice was invaluable with helping me decide what I should pursue.  It would have been easy for them to simply affirm my thoughts but they were willing to give me honest answers instead.

Only time will tell if I have made the right decision, but either way I am glad I have some friends like that.  I have not always been so lucky and had to deal with a lot of pain and frustration because of it.

I get that it can be hard to be bold and honest with someone who seems to have already made up their mind but it is our responsibility as good friends to do so.  In one particular situation in my past, a lot of people had the chance to be honest and talk some sense into me, but not a single person said a thing, and I suffered pretty hard later.

The more set someone’s mind is the more challenging it can be to be honest with them, but I am grateful for my friends that are honest with me in order to help me make the right decisions in my life.

What are you grateful for?

Great Neighbors

We were a little bit uncertain what it would be like living on base when we came to Japan, and honestly we still have some mixed feelings.  The one thing that we could not have asked for better is our neighbors.

From the day we moved in the have been so wonderful helping us in every way.  Despite the fact that I really enjoy yardwork, I haven’t had to do much here because they always beat me to mowing the grass and even taking the leaves.  

Most of our neighbors have teenage kids who have been great babysitters whenever we have needed them.  It is super nice to have literally six different babysitters in the same parking lot.

Today, not for the first time, they gave us eggs and milk to finish a recipe that I miscalculated on.  I know that is a little thing, but it has been one little thing after another for two years now.

With my family’s impending departure this week it has been really hard to say goodbye to them, but I am super grateful that we have had such amazing neighbors.