Just the other day, my husband relays to me that we had a few smallish strangers come to the door. They had an odd request, one I don’t think I’ve ever heard…
They were not selling magazines.
They were not looking for missing Fido.
They did not lose a football in our backyard.
“Do you have any children between the ages of 7 and 10?” these children asked, and “If so, can they come out to play?”
Quite strange. And endearing.
They are friend-shopping. That’s amusing, in and of itself.
They had only one requirement of a friend. That he or she meet an age stipulation. Apparently 6-year-olds are too immature. Just coming off the reading curve, perhaps 6ers would be too silly, uncoordinated or lacking the inventiveness or sophistication of a riper 7-year-old. Or maybe they lack parental sanction to play with older kids, causing the inevitable “having to go home early” lament, which is a real buzz kill. Sorry, low range cut off is 7. And what if you’re 11? That’s apparently problematic as well. I’m sure 11s are too boring or stiff. A little high-brow? Perhaps they throw too hard or might possess a keen talent for life stuff that would simply make any form of competition no fun for fledgling talent. Sorry, our 11 and older crowd has also missed the cut.
Can you imagine grown-ups doing this? Knock knock, "Hi, my name is Karen, and is there anyone here between the ages of 45 and 50? If so, can they come play catch with me in the street? If they don’t have a glove, I have an extra. I'll make sure we're back by the time the streetlights come on."
(Yeah, I’d be committed.)
Do we, as adults, friend shop? Yes we do. But we are subtle. We whittle them down and size them up and before you know it, we’ve eliminated the number of potential friend candidates that could populate half of Manhattan by lunchtime. We’re persnickety about our friends which is why many folks have so few. As we age, we also make fine gradations in friend categories:
The best friend,
The real friend,
The golf friend,
The friend of the family,
The poker buddy,
The Significant Other
The book club,
The church friend
The fair-weather friend (like seasonal tires)
The fall-back friend
The honest friend
The fun friend
The road trip friend
The Imaginary Friend (ok, not all of us have these J)
and down at the bottom of the list….
And then the extremely rare:
The willing-to die-for-you friend.
Some of you have individual friends that fit into several of these categories at the same time and for this I commend you! I think the rarest types of friends are the “best, real, honest and willing-to-die-for-you" categories. Of course, if they golf or travel, you’ve found a multiple blessing.
How do you find them? I think you have to put yourself out there a lot, like the hokey pokey. You must be willing to be vulnerable; to take a risk. It also helps to be a friend and do the honest, real, willing-to-die-for-you stuff that is what we ultimately look for. “To have a friend is to be a friend”. This is an adage that still applies in our time, believe it or not. Or this one: “A friend in need is a friend indeed”. I really do strive to be a good, real, surrendering type of friend but I must admit, this is hard work and…I fail frequently. (By the way, if you’re looking for excellent reading on friendship, I might suggest Holy Scripture and in particular the Gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John as well as the book of Sirach in the Old Testament. It is chock full of sage wisdom on the art of being a friend.)
Ultimately, there is a Best Practices model available on friendship. It’s authored by a friend Whom I have not mentioned yet. He didn’t write a single word on friendship in a book that might have been aptly titled: Friendship for Dummies. Rather, He modeled it in His living and in His dying. He is the One who will look for us even when we’re not looking for Him. He’s in a category all His own. He defines true friendship and defies every cliché about friendship. He actually laid down His life for all of His friends even though His friends treated Him badly at the time He needed them most. (And, sadly, still do). That’s not an obstacle for this Friend though, because he set up a beautiful collection of little friendship doors for us. They are called prayer & sacraments – where we can find Him when we get a little lost. This Friend always has our best interests in mind - always has our back. This Friend is a sturdy shelter. He is patient, kind, never jealous, envious or rude. He never demands His own way; is not haughty or selfish. When all others have gone, this Friend remains. There are no strings attached to His friendship. He is madly in love with us and is a complete gentleman about our boundaries. He is knocking at your door every day hoping – just hoping you’ll not be too busy to “come out and play”.
I’m pretty sure He doesn’t have an age requirement.
Say, say ole playmate,
Come out and play with me
And bring your dollies three
Climb up my apple tree
Slide down my rainbow
Into your cellar door
And we’ll be jolly friends
Forever more, more, more, more, more!