This week, a friend of mine whom I hadn’t seen since high school messaged me on Facebook. She told me that she missed me, that watching my growth (by means of social media) has been an incredible journey.
What a lovely surprise! I thought upon reading this. I was touched by the thoughtfulness and sincerity behind the message. What did I do to deserve such a kind friend?
Then I realized—well, I actually hadn’t done much to deserve this kindness, not really. I hadn’t instigated a single conversation with this friend since I started college, even though she was a source of unwavering support in a time of grueling adolescent self-loathing. My absence was made even more apparent when she replied to my response with relief: “I was so excited you answered!” she wrote.
This isn’t the first friend who has alluded to my distance. Other friends, all of whom I’ve considered close and dear to me, have pointed out that I rarely reach out to them, that they are more often the ones to send the first “hello.”
I typically respond to this observation with a sheepish laugh and some pish-posh about how I am just bad at initiating conversation, or, I have phone anxiety, or I’ve just been so busy, or some other excuse that may be true but does nothing to fully justify my shortcomings as a friend.
Whenever other friends of mine threw such excuses my way, I felt hurt, even betrayed, by how dismissive they were, how little they seemed to value me. And yet, too often I find myself treating some of my closest friends in the same way for reasons I do not quite understand. I’ve always considered my friends crucial to my sense of community and context, of my identity. The best of friends infuse my life with positivity, love, and support; they affirm my importance in the world. Perhaps my friends value their relationships with me in the same way. In that case, I must consider what kind of friend I want to be.
I want to be a friend—“friend” as a way of life, a way of being. I want to be the one who reaches out, the one who pulls in. I want to be a now-friend, not a was or used to be or a could have been. I want to know my friends’ everyday moods and musings, to see what is enclosed within the walls of their private minds, not only the big picture reflections that they project to the public.
And I don’t ever want my friends to question how much I care.
“I think that you underestimate my love for you,” I told my friend over Facebook. Of course, only after some thought did I realize how little affirmation I’d offered her with my silence.
Starting now, today, I am going to be a much more intentional and involved friend. I’ve already arranged to write letters with a couple of long-distance folks and to call others by phone. I’m going to say the first hello.
Now, I ask you: what kind of friends do you want in your life? Have you been that friend to others?