Thirty plus years after high school, I still remember the painful experience of my senior year. My “best friend” Janene came to school and told everyone that her mom had grounded her because she had heard she was drinking and smoking pot. Fact was…Janene was. Other fact: The previous night, Janene’s mom had called my mother to tell her she had faked a phone call from someone to get Janene to confess to the behavior. A fake phone call, that I knew about, that Janene blamed me for. And I couldn’t betray her mother, or mine.
For months, I endured the silence of people who made the assumption that Janene was telling the truth. People that I thought knew me stopped talking to me. I lost my identity as her friend and I lost many in our circle of friends.
But while I still remember the experience, the lesson that repeatedly comes back is that friendship is a tenuous thing…which seems contrary to the word “friend”. At the time, however, I was given a chance to make new friends. Real friends. While my heart was raw from betrayal, it was still open and it became one of those experiences that affected my life’s outlook.
Yesterday, I was mourning a friendship lost. It has been in the back of my mind for a while, wondering why my path led me to become friends with this person and why suddenly, the friendship just stopped. I suppose those thoughts were in my head while I stood alone in the post office line.
There are days like yesterday when I am comfortable being lost in my thoughts. I prefer to walk anonymously through my day, to wallow a bit, to work things out, to allow myself to shed the bad feelings. So when I found myself at the back of a very long line, I was ok. I could remain lost in my thoughts, staring ahead and moving ever so slowly forward. And then a man smiled at me and moved up, so I could be inside the lobby.
Normally the area in that particular post office is small and there seems to be an echo every time someone whispers. So naturally, people feel a bit awkward whispering. But when a toddler broke the silence with his antics, the line of anonymous faces suddenly became a line of smiling faces. In fact, when his mom finished her turn at the counter, I heard myself asking her to please not take him away.
Perhaps I called attention to myself when I said that (or perhaps my echo did), because one of my Facebook friends called out to me from behind me in line. Our conversation led to the topic of road closings, which then led to me me saying that the roads would be closed in our downtown this weekend for our Christmas festival, and then suddenly the people in the line were engaged in dialogue.
When I returned home, I had two new Facebook friend requests…and the simple happy memory of an experience that opened my heart to new relationships with people I would have missed if I had kept to myself.
Why are we on this earth, actually, if not to touch each other’s lives and to learn from each other? Ah, the high school experience of mine could have caused me to remain hurt and bitter, but I learned more about people — and myself — that was surprising. Friendships may come and go, but even the short time we may have in contact with friends enriches our lives.
And it may be years before we truly understand just what that value will be.