I received an email from my mother this morning which is always a bizarre sort of literary adventure. My mother, the librarian, writes lengthy run on sentences, ignores punctuation, has no idea how to spell or utilize the spell-check feature and jumps quite randomly from one subject to another and then back again (I love you, mom!). This letter was no different. She discussed the weather (cold), my dad (work), my brother (sick), Africa mission team updates complete with anecdote about chickens and goats (knife of homesickness is now plunged deeper into my chest), her activities (quilting, etc.), blah … blah … blah. All of this punctuated quite firmly by: “You need friends. Love, MOM.”
I want to take offense to that statement. I want to feel indignant. I want to lash out with prickly thorns of defense. I want to climb upon my desk and, to the utter astonishment of my coworkers,
It is not untrue. You see, I do have friends. The problem lies in the undeniable fact that those friends that mean the most to me … those that I would honestly lie down and die for … those who are not afraid to tell me I’m behaving like an ass … those that I will always love whole-heartedly for the rest of my days … those very few individuals are scattered, quite literally, to all four corners of this great bluish orb we call Earth. This is part and parcel of the whole missionary/third culture kid gig. We grow up together. We understand one another. We attend boarding school together for nine months of every year. Here, separated from our respective parental units, we learn to trust one another and lean on each other for … well, everything. And then, abruptly, we are uprooted from one another (often again and again and again), tossed across every continent (Antarctica excluded) and expected to plant new seeds and cultivate new friendships … all in foreign (unfamiliar to us) soil.
I am not implying that I have made absolutely no friends in the fifteen (plus) years since I graduated from high school. That would be pitiful, indeed. I have and they are very dear to me. But, there will always be something a little bit stronger tying me to those from my childhood and adolescent years. Incidentally, even my closest friends post-1992 are now scattered about quite randomly. The point, here, is that I do have friendships. But, not one of my “I will do anything for you” friends lives within a thousand miles of me. Courtesy of advancements in technology, they are all virtually closer to me now than they were a few years ago (email, Skype, Facebook, etc.), but it is not the same as being together.
For all my talk and over-the-top extroverted nature, I am incredibly reserved when it comes to truly letting someone into my soul. On the surface, I make friends quickly. I have a lot of acquaintances. I am, for the most part, a highly likeable individual. I never pretend to be something I am not. What you see is what you get. Getting to know me, though, takes effort. One must really want to pull back the layers of who I am in order to gain my trust and, ultimately, my true friendship. My experience has been that most individuals in the society of which I reside (Americans) are far too lazy. They don’t really want to get to know me. Most are content, in passing, to utter a “how are you doing but answer me really quickly so I can get on with my own life” greeting. This is, of course, a judgmental generalization. I mean no blatant offense and I do have hope that I will be proven wrong.
“Friends are like melons; shall I tell you why? To find one good you must one hundred try.” ~Claude Mermet
So, when my mother tells me, “You need friends,” she is really telling me that I need friends who are local. I need friends that I can hang out with in person, talk to face-to-face or go to when I am in need. In that respect, she is right. Do you hear that, mom? You are right!
This is where I am … thumping the melons of my acquaintance in search of true friendship. I may have thumped a few a wee bit too hard. Still, one or two of these, somewhere along the way, is bound to be good. Right?