September 25

The Effort of Friendship

September 25, 2018

Personal Growth

We have a strong tendency to choose as friends the people who are similar to us, or at least who feed our needs for particular forms of Imitation Love without too much manipulation on our part. In short, we choose people who are easy and comfortable for us. This is certainly understandable, but in making such choices we miss out on many rich opportunities for love and growth.

Years ago I met Ralph and could feel the emptiness and pain inside him. I resolved that I would attempt to develop a relationship with him, despite discouragement from others, who said that he was unreachable.

One day I called Ralph and asked if we could set a day in the following week when I could come to his home and spend some time with him.

"I don't plan that far ahead," he said.

"How about this week? Like day after tomorrow?"

"I don't know what I'll be doing."

"Understandable," I said. "How about right now?"

"Not enough notice."

On several occasions I had similar conversations with him, and it became clear that every time I suggested would be too far away or too close. There never would be a time that was just right. One day when I called, as soon as he answered, I hung up and drove over to his house, knowing at least that he would be there. I know, sneaky.

When I knocked on Ralph's front door, his wife, Delores, answered. I asked if Ralph was home. She paused for a moment and said, "No, he's not here."

I smiled and said, "You mean he's not here in the house?"

She knew I had figured out what she meant by the word here, so she couldn't help grinning herself. "Yes, he's not here in the house."

"Okay," I said, "thanks." I had heard that Ralph often worked in a shop in his backyard, where he also kept a number of beehives. I walked around to the side of the house and vaulted the waist-high chain-link fence. I was younger then and could "vault."

Ralph was surprised to see me, but he chose to be gracious and allowed me to engage him in conversation. He was guarded but pleasant, and the more we talked, the more freely he spoke. When I announced my departure he offered to escort me through the house and out the front door, which I thought was infinitely preferable to his throwing me back over the fence. And he invited me to return.

I did return, on many occasions, and we became good friends, continuing our communication for nearly thirty years, until he died. Relationships, and the love that can be shared in them, often require effort to establish and then maintain. My experiences with Ralph were well worth the small efforts I made to begin our association.

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