Define friend. Stops one in their tracks, doesn't it, if you are really serious about giving a heart-felt answer.
Flip through a thesaurus and you'll see lots of adjectives giving a variation of friend. Chum. Pal. Buddy. Colleague.
But to many of us the word "friend" is too precious to be used casually.
To me, a friend is someone who is there. There when you are out of work and down to your last farthing. There when your health takes a tumble. There when the world's abuse and cruelty beats you down. There when you make a monumental blunder and need to suss out why you did it and how you can fix it. There when the holidays come and they make room around the festive table for the solitary soul.
Demanding traits, aren't they?
I have such a friend. Last week Janice MacDonald celebrated the launch of yet another book destined to hit, like her other missives, the bestseller list. She writes these Randy Craig Edmonton-based mysteries while holding down a demanding full-time job, being a loving mother, ardent arts supporter, gung-ho banjo player and devoted wife to her husband Randy Williams who – a gift to all of us – shares the same friend qualities as she does.
I am not the only one treated this way. Scores of others around the world are also blessed to call this couple friends.
Allowing someone into your life demands great care. It is so easy to be lulled into an intimacy that finds you sharing facts about yourself. Being this gullible lets a rotter gain information that can be twisted and used against you.
Warning articles pop up in the daily media and glossy magazines describing the traits of psychopaths. Superficial charm, average intelligence, lying, insincerity, lack of remorse or shame, manipulative. They then usually follow up with the fact they can be found everywhere from school, to workplace, to family.
The usual advice, should you encounter such a malevolent person, is to keep them at arm's length if you can't disappear from their web of influence. This is not to scare you away from companionship, but to make you alert as to what is the genuine article of this relationship called friendship.
Theologian and renowned Catholic communicator Father Robert Barron writes in his blog, "I do believe we often underestimate the basic human need for friendship and how it shapes who we are and all the good that friendship, by its very nature, can accomplish in life and even in our larger world. . . .
"We can all probably point to experiences in friendship (some truly positive and some truly negative) that have helped to shape who we ourselves are, and have brought insight and understanding."
Trouble is when you are hit too often by the vampires of the world, you slam the friendship door shut and lock it. But there is still a need for nourishing companionship.
Perhaps that is why there is such an upsurge in pet ownership. I wonder if many of us chose rescue cats and dogs, animals that have been abused and/or abandoned, because we too have been abused, yet know how crucial it is be cared for and learn how to trust.
Interestingly enough, when one goes to an off-leash park, owners usually know the different dogs' names, yet have no idea who is at the end of the leash. As a lovely aside, firm friendships have been formed over the years between many of those dog walkers.
Silent friends count too, such as this touching example. A group of women one Christmas bought scores of heavy, name brand quality work socks.
They also purchased big baking potatoes. The women roasted the potatoes in their ovens. Once done, they split the hot spuds, sprinkled them with salt and wrapped them up in heavy tinfoil.
Each hot potato was tucked into a sock. The group then drove down into the bitingly cold inner city and placed the socks into the homeless souls' hands.
The hot food nourished the hungry people and the socks kept their feet or hands from freezing. It also let them know someone cared about them. In turn, it let the women share, in an inventive, practical way.
One of the women recently told another in the group that that Christmas was her favourite. Like the Good Samaritan, these women knew and practised the reality – that we are one.
(Lasha Morningstar firstname.lastname@example.org)