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I have been thinking a lot over the past couple of days – thinking about how our lives can change in a second; about counting our blessings and about how important friends are to our lives.
I had lunch last week with an old friend. We don’t see each other very often; in fact it has been a couple of years since I last saw my friend. We stay in touch – cards at holidays, Facebook greetings an occasional e-mail. But our close day to day relationship has changed.
When we do get together – it’s like we just saw each other a week ago. We gab, we laugh, we tease, we catch up and we listen. These get togethers always take place over a meal – usually lunch. Then we hug goodbye – and vow to get in touch more often.
So when my friend contacted me last week to see if I could free myself up for a lunch – I did so without hesitation. It had been too long since we last saw each other.
There we were, munching away and catching up. We talked about our jobs; we talked about family and what we’ve been doing since we last saw each other. I bragged about my kids and moaned about things that have been causing me some sleepless nights. There were no awkward moments; just the reconnection of two old friends.
After nearly three hours, we had eaten the last of our salads, slurped the last of our iced tea and soda and had even paid the bill. We said how wonderful it was to see each other and that we really shouldn’t let so much time go by in between visits.
As lunch wound down – that’s when it happened.
I had just finished whining about something that’s going on in our house when my friend said this - “I had a really bad summer this year.”
The story started to come out. It started with some health issues – annoyances many of us face in our 50s that turn into something a bigger and that go on longer than we thought it would. But there was more to come. My friend then told me about something tragic that happened in his life – of unfathomable dimensions.
I have thought about little else, since. I won’t share the story here. First of all, it isn’t my story to share. But also because this really isn’t about the story itself, anyway.
I have thought about how sad it was, but more than that, I have thought about how we never know what someone is facing – what burden they may be carrying on their heart. A person’s life can be changed in dramatic and permanent ways in the span of a heartbeat – and they will keep it to themselves and deal with it themselves and work to heal themselves, and we may have no idea at all.
I have thought about the courage it must have taken for my friend to tell the story, and how he must have debated whether or not to do it at all. I am honored that he did, and perhaps in the telling, it is one step in the healing for him.
I called him later that night to tell him I knew how difficult I know it was for him to tell me. At the same time, I apologized for going on and on about some really inconsequential things when he is wrestling with something much bigger.
In the telling of this story was a lesson for me. I often count my blessings – but at the same time I moan about things that really shouldn’t matter much. I will say out loud what I already know – that I have it pretty good.
I am going to have more patience with people who might be cranky, or irritated or downright rude. I am going to do that because I have no idea what they might be facing, what news they may have gotten right before they encounter me.
One thing my friend told me as we talked was how grateful he is that he had some good friends who were with him at the time. How if he had been alone – he doesn’t know what would have happened.
I am going to be thankful every day for the things I have been given and not dwell on the things that I don’t have or that may not be going my way.
I am going to be a better friend, sister, daughter, mom – I am going to make more of an effort with all my friends and family and not take things for granted.