FRIENDS OF THE FRIENDLESS
OPINION/EDITORIAL from my Newspaper,
The Geneva Shore Report, January 8, 2020
There was once a bit of humor portrayed by two hoboes talking to one another on a park bench. They were having one of those not uncommon hobo conversations about the meaning of life because there’s not much else to do, except maybe scavenge around a bit when you are a hobo. They were discussing the greatest invention of all time. They covered the atom bomb, computers, and even electricity before discarding them as not totally fitting as the greatest ever. There was a moment of silence while they considered. Finally, one of the men raised a finger into the air. “I’ve got it,” he exclaimed. “What is it?” the other hobo inquired, anxiously. The hobo with his finger in the air lowered it to pick up his thermos. “It’s the ‘thermos,” he stated, holding the tubular vessel in the air. “The thermos?” his buddy asked in shock. “Yes, the ‘thermos,” the other man said. “You put hot things in it and they stay hot. You put cold things in and they stay cold.” The two men looked at one another. “Why does that make it a great invention,” the one hobo asked. “How do it know?” the other responded.
How do we know who our friends are and who is simply using us for their own survival or warehousing for survival relationship? How do we know? Around the holidays most of us give pause to consider this question, even if we don’t specifically isolate it for detailed analysis. The question is always there unless a conclusion has been arrived at due to a previous circumstance in life experience. Just about everyone on earth, by the time they reach a certain age, has figured out that real friendship is almost impossible to arrive at without action. As societies have been driven or attracted ever deeper into the arrival of electronic communications and presentation, spoken and written words have cheapened. Quite possibly it is only the perception of these things being taken for less that is involved, as electronic communications have also educated the public much more deeply about such things.
Nevertheless, the proof of friendship is in the actions leading to such a relationship; friendship is defined as an emotional bonding for life as deep as family, and in many cases, deeper than family relationships. The expression “you can choose your friends but you don’t get to choose your family,” being recognized by almost everyone with its uncanny accuracy and applicability.
What are these actions that must be present to form relationships founded on steel foundations? Generally, they are not good ones. For the most part, it is in times of trouble that the actions of potential friends can be measured. The actions of the friend, particularly when linked to the other person, must be those of angst and hardship overcome. They must evidence a loyalty not otherwise demonstrated, even by humans who know one another well. A combat veteran was once asked about the other vet he’d shared foxholes with: “how do you feel about the fact that a soldier you served with ran away from a battle?” The vet thought for a moment before replying. “I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t served with a man who knew when to run. When he ran I ran with him. We are both here at this hearing today because of his good judgment.”
Isn’t serving the specific over the general part of arriving at a decision to befriend. The veteran who ran was making a survival decision for himself and his buddy against the potential outcome of the whole. The country might find him guilty of cowardice but the country could hardly find him guilty of not being loyal to his fellow soldier. And such is friendship. The best friendships are often forged under such circumstances, and once forged, they are immutably bonded against other acts that might seemingly divide but pale in comparison to the actions that brought about the friendship.
In one of the episodes of the successful ’50s television show called I Love Lucy, Lucille Ball’s character is seemingly betrayed by her best friends and her own husband over some issue. Lucy leaves her apartment, goes down into a nearby park at night and rises up the homeless people to march. With a big drum, they parade around the park chanting “friends of the friendless.” It was hilarious. It is not quite so funny to be in that situation, however, as I am sure some reading this can identify with. In reality, there is no crowd of homeless waiting in the darkened park, no drum, no chanting. There is only a lack of direction and meaning for those who’ve either never been able to build friendships and tribal ties or been unable through their actions to sustain them.
Let the coming of this 2020 entry into the New Year allow those who are capable of reading this to understand what must be done to avoid living and dying alone. Find the commitment, the spine, the ability to express inner honor outward to those of value around you. Only bliss can follow from making the effort and then judging others by the same standard used to judge the actions of one’s self.
Thinking about your reference to the two soldiers running away from battle. If you understand battle tactics, then you realize that fire and maneuver does not mean always going toward the enemy. Sometimes it means going away from the enemy and living to fight another day. I believe that is called advancing to the rear. I watched a video of the individual that took out the church shooter in Texas. It was being conducted on his training range where he had different distances marked off. He teaches his students that if you are over 15 yards from the danger and can….run!
And on the purpose of the article….yes I agree. True friendships don’t exist without effort, understanding, and sometimes forgiveness.
Don’t forget that one Joe. It is impossible to be perfect out here. In combat you get to see the men around you twenty-four seven
all the time. You get the good the bad and the ugly. Out here, back in the world, we only get to see vignettes which are almost all good,
until something happens and then a bad or ugly thing comes out. So many friendships end because of that one or a few incidents of real life
entering the picture.
Thanks for the thoughtful comment.
I was including tolerance as part of understanding and forgiveness. None of us are perfect, and if relationships are to continue, sometimes it is us being tolerant, and other times it is them be tolerant of us.
Got it Joe!
I enter this new year having lost my best friend a few months ago. Our friendship was forged in times of trouble and dangers, as you mentioned in your article. We had each others back, we almost literally read each others mind. He was a former Marine, I was Army. His best compliment to me: “You would have made a great Marine”. Mine to him: “You would have been a damn good soldier”. And we both meant it. He passed away, alone, just a couple weeks before I was supposed to go take him to lunch and buy him a beer for the Marine Corps Birthday. I miss him. I enter this new year without that friend to lean on and lend a shoulder to. Those friendships are priceless. And cannot be replaced. As we age, those friendships become even more valuable, as our numbers slowly diminish. We are left with only memories, as even those begin to wane. As usual, your writing has prompted deep thought. Happy New Year, Jim! May your friendships stay strong and true. And healthy.
Well Marshall, I think you would have made a great Marine. I think that of many Army soldiers, but they didn’t and don’t need to be Marines. The U.S. Army is an underrated great force all on its own.
Marines just have this mystique, carefully manicured and not totally untrue. Thanks for sharing that and I am so sorry about your great friend. We don’t get many. The song from High Noon plays through my mind many times
these days “do not forsake me oh my darling,” because we are so often forsaken. Why do so many people not truly value friendship? Is it because they have never gone through combat or enough hardship alone?
Thanks for the great comment.
James I have read this several times. I don’t really have anything profound to say. But when we get our age most of us I believe do a lot of pondering. Who is a friend? How many friends do I need and what do I need from a friend? Last year I had the privilege of spending a few hours with a Marine buddy that I had not seen since August 1967. We were then healthy young men we are now what some would consider old men. Our visit was as if it had only been a few days since we had been together. A couple of other observations. There is a small window of a few years as we age when we through experience have gained some wisdom and many people will show us respect. Then we begin to show our age and infirmities and people want to avoid us. Then we withdraw from the public and start seeking out the company of others like ourselves. About families, seems to me families that go through hard times together learn to take care of one another. Poor people sacrifice greatly to care for a family. other families send them off to the nursing home and forget about them. In this part of the country the family is the clan and demonstrate great loyalty.
Well, I am not avoiding you Don. I so much appreciate the relationships I have come to find on this site.
I stare the guns down the barrels again on the 22 of this month and because of a few friends, family and this site
I know I am not facing them alone.
Thanks for the, indeed, profound, comment.
Very well said/written 👍
As usual very insightful. The old adage, “Be true to your self”.
Happy New Year, James.
Friendship is NOT a click on Social Media, although over the past years I feel honored to have met and befriended Real Friends through Social Media.
What amazes me, and sometimes can’t figure it out, how we have remained true friends for 50 years ~~smile
It is an unquestioning relationship and knowing the importance of having each other’s back through thick and thin.
Thank you for the opportunity.
It is appreciation of difference and how so many different things can work to make life better. We only have our own internal
perspective Chuck, and those of us with a gift of intellect at all can observe and then gravitate to others of life’s success
and overlook the fact that they are totally different than we are.