A few weeks ago, on a surprisingly chilly February night in Alabama, I set my alarm for 4:30 a.m.
I dreaded getting up this early. Dragging myself from the comfort of a warm bed and driving to the airport in the frigid dark didn’t seem like a wise way to start the day.
I’m a morning guy, but I like to drink coffee, meditate and generally begin my day with rituals that exclude being patted down by TSA officials and then cramming my six-foot-seven-inch frame into the economy section of a regional jet. But since I’d bought the ticket and made the hotel reservation, I got up, staggered to the shower and scraped a dull razor across my face.
Then I slurped down a cup of coffee and headed to the airport. I was joining old friends to say goodbye.
The price of friendship seems high sometimes. Friendship, you see, isn’t free. It costs us. It’s full of risk. In friendship, we risk losing our time.
Sometimes, we risk losing money or possessions. Have you ever loaned something to a friend that you didn’t get back?
We can also risk heartache and betrayal. Have you ever been misunderstood or found yourself the topic of unkind discussion between two people you care about?
Yet we rarely count the cost of friendship, unless we’ve endured the pain that arises from one of these losses. This trip to Northern Virginia was going to cost me time, money and the comfort of a warm bed. All for the simple opportunity to join other friends in saying goodbye to a friend named Clyde.
The trip was only for one night. But, between the airfare, the hotel, and the meals, I spent an amount that was outside of my budget. My return flight was delayed a few hours. The universe and the airline gave me the chance to choose mindfulness, to remember I couldn’t control when, or even if, I would board.
As I waited, I knew I would I would return home weary from the travel and staying up with friends the night before. When I finally arrived home late that night, I knew I would have to rise early again the following morning—a Saturday morning—to attend a book signing event. But the price of all this—to say goodbye with my friends—was well worth the time, money and fatigue.
One of my friends, a girl I went to high school with, had arranged a farewell party for Clyde. To be clear, Clyde, or Clyde’s, as it were, is a place—not a person. It was a place where many of us enjoyed gathering for many years. Clyde’s was a place where we’d laughed, shared our victories and our defeats, a place where we’d broken bread. And it was closing after about 35 years of providing us an alter where we’d placed our offerings of friendship. We all wanted to say goodbye. But more than that, it was a really a reason to invest in a little time together.
Friendship may cost us. But friendship yields only as much as we are willing to invest in it.
About 12 of us gathered. Though my journey was the longest geographically, at least one of us had taken longer to drive across the bright lights and traffic of Washington and Northern Virginia to invest in some time together. Once gathered, we embraced. We laughed. We ate and drank and caught up with one another. I think we all found the investment worthwhile. I know I did. The following day, one of these friends drove several hours, simply to have lunch with me. I hadn’t seen her in more than 30 years. But she was willing to make the investment in our friendship.
As I try to approach my life more mindfully each day, there are some lessons I’ve learned about friendship.
Friendship only grants me as much of a return as I’m willing to invest.
Investing time, energy and even money in my friendships is essential to my health and happiness—and maybe to my friends’ health and happiness too.
Life is brief. An opportunity to be with friends is precious and it isn’t guaranteed.
I’ve learned to be grateful for my friendships and honor the investment my friends make in our relationship.
I’m sure there’s probably more to remember. But, I will stop for now. It’s Friday night and some of my friends have asked me to join them for dinner. These are newer friends than those who I gathered with earlier this month. So, even though I’m tired from a busy week, I’m going to join them, because some day I want them to be old friends.
Author: Jim Owens
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock