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Friends

I overheard two people who were purchasing lottery tickets. One asked if they should include their other friends, because if only those two won, the others would be upset in not sharing the $99 quadrillion winnings. The second person joked that if they won that much money, they could afford to buy new friends.

In all seriousness, though, the lottery wouldn’t be enough. And, definitely, my wallet, checkbook, and wildest dreams wouldn’t be enough.

I can pay a mechanic to fix my car. I can trade any modest skills of mine for a paycheck from an employer. I can ask relatives to help me move my household belongings. But, I don’t have to ask a friend for much. Friends offer to help with whatever. I have had friends simply spend time with me as if that was the only thing they wanted to do. Over the years, I have had different friends, completely unbidden, attend the funerals of my father and my sons.

It is interesting, and humbling, to watch young children play with yet-unknown children. The first day of kindergarten is a good example. The riches of the world are of no concern to them. The tallest, prettiest, and smartest children are on the same footing as all the others. The one with the fanciest backpack, most pencils, and the name-brand clothes has no advantage. But, the children who most easily make and keep friends do pay a very high price.

The non-insulting, non-bullying, non-bossy child only has a limited start. That payment for “friendship” is simply a neutral one.

Something positive is necessary; and it is a high price. The cost is more than friendliness – it is honestly giving of themselves. The child always picked last to be on a team, when chosen other than last, earnestly gives his allegiance to the team captain. The little boy who has dropped the ball for the umpteenth time, yet is still passed the ball by a classmate, knows some things can’t be bought. The little girl who is self-conscious of her lisp, feels like she could fly when another child simply listens without interruption to something she says. A teacher watches at lunchtime, as one child offers to trade their hot dog for a squashed jelly sandwich. The teacher knows the first child’s favorite food is hot dogs, yet also knows the second child’s least favorite is jelly sandwiches. The teacher watches as one child doesn’t “let” another kid win at a game; yet rejoices when the second does finally win. How many “hellos” does it take - always one more. Who but a true friend would share a brand new box of crayons?

Some people don’t want to cause embarrassment so they don’t say anything, but a friend will whisper, “check your zipper.” Strangers criticize and it hurts; friends criticize and you grow and improve.

True friends cost me my time and a freely-given part of myself. Yes, you can buy friends with lottery winnings; but I have been taught that you get what you pay for.