They considered themselves friends because they met once a week to gossip about everyone they knew, especially the people they didn’t like.
I listened to their chatter as they were babbling about all their wealthy friends. It sounded like a “who can top this?” television show. For every wealthy friend one of them had, the others knew at least five more. By the time they were finished with the name-dropping, everyone in town was rich and poverty was totally eliminated.
I waited my turn to join in the conversation. After an hour they were finally tired of hearing themselves talk and seemed anxious to hear about my rich friends. Instead, I described Emerson’s thoughts on friendship. He said, “Friends were objects of God and should be deified.” He said, “The only way to have a friend is to be one.” Then I decided to tell them about an experience I had regarding friendship and what some poor elderly seniors thought real friendship was.
I was visiting my friend, Tony, at a local senior citizens’ center. He was in the recreation room with a few of his old cronies celebrating his birthday. They were complaining about their old friends not visiting them anymore. It was apparent to me that most of their friends were either too old to visit, or had dissolved into the cloudy mirror of time.
As the conversation continued, it was obvious they all had different views about friendship.
One of the men sitting at the table mentioned that only a few of his friends visited him. He said, “When they did visit they were too critical of his behavior, insensitive to his feelings and oblivious to his needs. In some cases, they were so mean that it destroyed any foundation their friendship was built on.”
Another gentleman said, “A friend is someone attached to us by mutual respect, affection and self-esteem, a person we can interact with on a personal level and one who is reciprocal in honesty, integrity and loyalty.” He went on to say, “A friend should be non-judgmental, a person you can rely on and trust, no matter what the circumstances are.”
Finally, Tony, slightly bent at the waist, stood up. He balanced his frail, tall, slim frame on the back of the steel folding chair with one hand while clutching his wooden cane with the other. He cleared his throat, took a deep breath and slowly placed his old wool cap on the table. Looking out over the room as if it were the center stage of a political debate, he gave us his definition of a friend.
“A true friend is someone who can understand our tears, value our laughter and gently guide us through our moments of despair and sorrow. Making new friends isn’t easy, because our terms and conditions for friendship have been altered by time. As we get older, we are more demanding, set in our ways and we skeptically evaluate the true motive of others. These stubborn criteria for friendship prohibit any opportunities to develop new friendships, denying us the companionship so vital to us in our senior years.”
The deafening sound of the lunch bell rang and everyone at the table pointed themselves toward the cafeteria. Tony placed his tattered cap strategically on his head and started shuffling his way to the door. As I started too, he gently tugged on my arm with the curved handle of his cane. His eyes suddenly swelled with emotion. The tears flowing down his wrinkled, weathered face, were tenderly absorbed by his full, glistening beard. Then, in a low, trembling voice he said, “David, what I would like for my birthday is another friend.”
David Farside is a Sparks resident and political activist. The polemics of his articles can be discussed at email@example.com. His website is www.thefarsidechronicles.com.