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What is the purpose of having a friend? The truth is that maintaining a real friendship takes both time and commitment – both precious commodities. This is a question I’ve been pondering lately, this process triggered by having houseguests for five days. The visiting couple are, indeed, dear friends. Nevertheless, I had great trepidation about their staying for that length of time because, as the old saying goes, “Guests, like fish, stink after three days.” Furthermore, I am a creature who demands flexibility and freedom in my life and the thought of someone staying with us conjured up images of being trapped taking care of people, restricted from doing my daily workout in the gym or writing or – just spending some time alone thinking.
I don’t like to admit I was amazing wrong in my preconceived judgment. In fact, my concern was totally misplaced because – Sally Ann and Douglas are intelligent, funny, generous, self-sufficient and low maintenance. In other words, they are the ideal house people as well as solid friends. But more than that, their presence provided insight as to why having friends is important.
The first day of their stay was a bright and sunny so I decided to invite Douglas to join me in a walk on the beach. He has a fascinating history as a writer, actor and literary agent. He is also one of the most positive people I know, as is his wife. As we walked, I asked numerous questions about his past exploits and beliefs. I gently grilled him as to how he was ding in his present circumstance of living in Florida and how he saw his future unfolding.. Despite his reserved British demeanor, he was amazingly open and forthcoming. After about thirty minutes into our walk and much talk, he turned to me and stated in his impressive English accent, “You know, one of the most wonderful things about having a good friend that you trust enough to speak truthfully is that you get to hear yourself speak in a new way. And, by doing so, you discover things about yourself that you never would have discovered.” “Wow”, I thought, “This friendship thing could really save people a lot of money on long-term therapy.” And, when I really consider it, that is reason enough to nurture friendships.
Then I began to realize – that was exactly what I was doing when he listened to me – hearing myself in a new light and having insights I never had before, all because he gave me his undivided attention and I knew – he was a friend and that friends really – listen.