Ever heard of this quote “Good friends are like stars, you don’t always see them but they are always there”? This quote got me into thinking, so I went for some fact checking and lo and behold- the stars that seem to appear to be always there but are actually moving away from us in reality.
What if I were to be a star of a friend to someone? You wouldn’t always see me and I would be moving away from you by the minute, farther and farther. What kind of friendship would that be, specially when it didn’t require almost no consistent effort on my part? Not the kind of friendship I would want in a friend and definitely not the kind of friend I would like to be.
I met my friend Catherine 17 years ago at a bible study. She lived in the outskirts of the town where we lived and showed up every week with a basket of vegetables from her garden. She was warm and welcoming and her kindness was contagious. We became friends. She was in her sixties and I was in my twenties. She was the first person I called when I went into labor. She came to see me in the delivery room with a box of frozen grapes lest I went hungry. She stayed with me until I had my baby and stayed with me until I was able to handle things on my own. She left a box of chocolate chip cookies for me to battle the first night at the hospital.
I moved away and lived in different places but we kept touch. She would send me birthday cards every year, for me and my kids, tucked letters, stickers, and sometimes coupons. She is a friend unlike a star, our physical distance grew bigger but the acts of being present grew stronger.
Here are a few ways to be a better friend-
Be a good listener-
Only listen, intentionally and mindfully, controlling the urge to share similar experience that you went thru. Don’t provide conclusion or offer wisdom ” I told you so”.
Be willing to be there for you friends. It doesn’t come naturally for many of us so do it habitually. Mark it on your calendar, set an alarm on your phone- do whatever it takes to make it happen. Don’t wait for a calamity to strike to be there for your friend.
Showing up is big on your quest to becoming a better friend. Distance has nothing to do with showing up- it’s only a myth. Make meeting with your friends a consistent, intentional part of your life, be it daily, weekly, monthly, yearly. Yes, we got kids, husbands and a ton of things on our plates but make time anyways. Remember “Where there is a will, there is a way”.
Has your friend started providing childcare in her home? Don’t give her a “let me know if you need anything”. Think about what she could possible need help with and find a way to give it to her. You may not be able to afford the bouquets that she makes but you can certainly spread the word for her business. Or, give her a compliment on her work. And don’t forget the power of like/love buttons, sharing a link or leaving a kind comment. Encourage them in their endeavors through words and actions.
Keeping touch has become easier than ever. It is simple and free but the intention must be there to turn it to a reality. You can send a text, an email or snail mail- whatever is your preferred method of communications, just do it. You’d be in touch with your child if he went to a college on the other coast. Or, would you say, sorry kiddo, I’m not good at long distant relationships, so you won’t always hear from me (forget about seeing me) but know that I’m always there.
Show them that you care-
Just let them know that they are loved. Don’t wait for the hallmark moment. Eloquence is not required here, being genuine is. Tell them that it will be alright, she will be fine and you have her back. Help her get up when her world just scattered into pieces, lend a shoulder to cry on and a hand to get back up. Make it better for her when she is vulnerable and scared.
Tribalism is a deterrent to becoming a true friend. I know this because I have moved a lot and get to experience this first hand every time we move to a new city, school or a masjid. Don’t be afraid to make new friends from another ethnicity, race or religion. Friendship is a common need that we all share.
Pretend you’re related-
If all else fail, pretend you’re related to your friend/s. Bilogy seems to have a priority and a sense of obligation might help you to be a better friend. Notice if it’s a case for you, observe the dsparity in your dealings between your biological sister and your non biological sister i.e sister in Islam.
So choose be a stellar friend, don’t settle to be a good friend. Let the friendship between our beloved Prophet(sa) and Abu Bakr (ra) be an inspiration for you. Think about all the ways they made an effort to be there for each other, in words and in actions.
And remember,”Work is love made visible”.