What is it to befriend? In this case you/i don’t need a dictionary as the word speaks that which it is pointing towards: be a friend unto another.
Why be/do that which it takes to befriend? A good question given that so many of us lead busy lives – rushing (as in the experience of rushing) from one place/activity to another. If you read the media you will come across those who speak of a loneliness epidemic in the UK. If you look to your own experience, it may be that you can access the experience of being without friends (at a certain place/time) or being befriended by another when you found yourself in a new place/situation/phase of life.
Late 2017, I get a text from my sister asking if I am willing to befriend her friend’s father who happens to have cancer, not that long to live, is lonely/depressed, and can do with company/friendship of someone like me – someone who himself has cancer including a friend that is dying of a brain tumour. She thinks we will get along.
I sit with this. I ask myself if I wish to give cancer a bigger role in my life than it already has – I already have one dear friend who has been told he has 6 months to live, I strive to spend every second Saturday with him. I ask myself if I am willing to take on that which comes with befriending one who is depressed – I have experienced the helplessness in facing a loved one who is depressed.
I act. I send my sister a text saying I am up for meeting her friend’s father and telling her to pass on my mobile phone number.
Later it hits me that I have almost certainly acted in bad faith. I have been playing the good guy on the surface – one not wanting to disappoint/displease his only sister. And hidden from view (even from myself to some extent) is the thought/hope that this chap (her friend’s father) will not call me – he’s old school English and we, the English, are known for keeping ourselves to ourselves – not intruding upon others.
Later it hits me that I know better, am better, and most certainly can choose to be better. It occurs to me that I must make a fundamental choice without knowing the other: am I willing to befriend this person, who is suffering, without knowing anything about him?
Then I ask myself what would be the logical course of action (for me) if I chose to Play BIG in relation to the ask of the situation. The answer is clear: I’d show up & travel with conviction – owning the game as in leading, shaping the game, and dealing with that which shows up. I wouldn’t wait for the other to make the first move – I’d make the first move and I’d own that move – really own it.
I call my sister. I ask her for the name of this chap and I ask her for his contact details: email, and mobile phone. She’s surprised. She hadn’t been expecting me to own this matter, to lead it, to be the one reaching out to this chap and asking him to meet up with me. She asks for time to speak with her friend. A couple of days later, I get a text with the contact details.
Being British ( English) I know that the least intrusive, most socially acceptable way, of making contact is to email. So I send that email – introducing myself, and asking this chap when he’s open to meeting up with me, and what he likes to do. In doing this I am perfectly calm – my whole being is relaxed operating out of the possibility of friendship, of contribution, of making a positive difference in the life of a fellow human being.
We text one another several times. We meet – we talk, I drive us to a pub for lunch, we eat, we talk, I drive him back home. I text him to say my thanks for his company. He texts back. I text again during the week – to ask where he’s at. He texts back…. We meet again. We text one another…. We have co-created a friendship between us!
Now here’s the thing I wish to get across. I often find myself starved of the kind of conversation that I look for – intelligent, broad range, human existence centred conversation. And this is exactly what I get when I am in the company of this older man who has lived a full life. It so happens, that he also enjoys my company, he considers me to be a worthy conversation partner. It turns out that standing in & operating from the possibility of friendship I have gifted myself with a friend, and a meaningful/enlivening friendship.
Here’s my invitation: Play BIG – be a friend unto another who can do with a friend. If you are wondering who can do with a friend. I say you do not have to look far – most of us are lonely, some are deeply lonely, and can do with a genuine friend. If you are still looking then I say: look for older people; look for those who happen to be in the minority; look for those who happen to be awkward, shy; look for those who are always smiling and telling jokes…
I thank you for listening. I wish you the very best. Until the next time…