Friendship: Bread for the Journey

Friendship: Bread for the Journey

Personal reflections on friendship by Andrea Bocelli, Jane Goodall, Reverend Billy Graham, Charlton Heston. Joe Lansdale, Jeffrey Meer, Members of the Worldwide Adidas Organization, Marina Mtchedlishvili, Anne Perry, Sayed Ahmad ...

About The Author

Doris S Platt

Born and educated in Europe. Involved in international diplomatic work, Special Advisor to President Eduard Shevardnadze, Humanitarian Affairs. Enjoys traveling, ...

Read an Excerpt

A waitress in a busy restaurant hurriedly put an overflowing mug of hot chocolate in front of me.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “We didn’t have a cup big enough to hold it.”

Little did she know that her comment was a fitting conclusion to the day. With stories to tell and time to tell them, a friend and I had driven through a landscape awesome in its majesty and variety. The trip had taken us to Arches National Park in Utah. In this region of sculpted earth and red stone millions of years in the making, a sign on a marked trail caught my eye: “Fiery Furnace—Hiking Permit Required.” A nearby notice urged visitors to travel in the company of others. The terrain was rough, and the warning had obviously been made for reasons of safety.

Rough terrain or smooth, who better to journey with us than a friend? A friend is a companion, “one with whom we have shared bread.” Both bread and friendship bring nourishment; both are universal to the world.

In friendship’s generous choreography of give-and-take, we offer who and what we are. We gain strength from its consistency and bask in the warmth of its acceptance. Now and then this relationship of choice is given to us fully formed; more often, it is woven slowly through generosity of trust and time.

Sleep deprivation did funny things to my mind. Black rings obscured  my vision.

I alternated between crying and laughing. Nausea and lethargy were sandbags  around me and I could not make a decision. It was not until sheer exhaustion drove me to the very brink that I learned the value of sacrifice.

Service, unselfishness; these were both points of satisfaction I thought I had transferred from Sunday school to life, but it took the sacrifice of a remarkable woman to teach me about friendship.

After nine very difficult months of pregnancy I gave birth to my first child, a very hungry girl. As a new mother I wanted to give her the best and nurse. Specialists had warned me against supplementing feedings because it would create confusion. The next time an expert gives me advice that flies in the face of the    obvious,

I will throw it out the window. Nevertheless, I followed that advice with disastrous consequences. My baby lost weight, cried constantly, and slept in hour-long intervals.

At two months, she was foundering and I was near exhaustion. All the symptoms of sleep deprivation combined with serious postpartum depression to  make  me  one  of those hysterical moms you read about  in the news who do something terrible to their children. I needed help. My husband was holding down long hours at work and despite valiant efforts to lend a hand, was also unable to care for this screaming baby of ours.

On the telephone I cried out my heart to my dear friend Stephanie who was nursing her own baby. She offered to give me six hours of time off. The tone of my voice must have scared her because she promised to make the twenty mile drive that very evening.

I protested that she could not leave her own two children. Trapped in my situation, I irrationally thought no one could possibly help me. She calmly told me her baby would not die if she was gone for six hours. Then she reassured me my baby would not die either. She arrived with a smile and took my infant from my shaking arms. Knowing my girl was in good hands, I finally slept.

Six hours later I awakened as someone who had been made whole. I felt like me again for the first time in months. After hours of hungry cries Stephanie had logically given my baby a bottle. I heard nothing. She had unplugged the phone, closed the door and gave me the very thing I needed most: sleep. Such a simple gift to give, but therein was the lesson I learned. Friends get to peek in the window at your private moments of hell and give you gifts you really need, not just the things they feel like giving. Like a sister, my friend dealt with the unpleasantness of a crying baby, and knew it was temporary. The impact of her gift was long-lasting.

Renewed with a breath of sanity, I was able to continue. My sweet child responded to Mommy’s new inner peace and slept more. I slept more. Stephanie will probably never know the crisis she averted, but I will never forget. When I was really tired my friend let me sleep.

Past friendships are history. Future friendships are a mystery.

Today’s friendships are a gift.

That’s why we call today the present.

Making friendships is like a seed planted in good earth. One needs to nourish and cultivate that relationship for it to grow. Once grown and strong it can withstand hard times and will never die.

Friendship is a soul connection of kindred spirits. My life entwined with another’s for some time in a pure friendship untainted by agendas, unfettered by past baggage or future expectations and simplified  because and to hopefully help one another through their experiences. I had never had an opportunity like this—such a pure playing field for practicing relationship skills.

The most impactful  lesson  I  learned there were no male-female tensions. It was a  pure  laboratory  of friendship for learning the deeper lessons which have blessed each subsequent relationship. For  the  first time in my life, I felt a deep  desire to do no harm, to  be careful in my words, to go back and clarify my intent and to ensure that my assumptions were correct. I discovered why people share their soul thoughts—to create a connection was that in order for friendship to flourish, both parties must be willing and capable of a sequence of attributes:  It begins with humility—both must be able to come to each  other and  admit  their wrong doings, wrong sayings, wrong not doings and not sayings! Then there must be dialogue—open, non defensive, non attacking, simply talking it out to arrive at understanding. Forgiveness is next, which means no bringing it up again  in  a  later  dispute—it  was  laid to rest. The result of this sequence—humility to dialogue to forgiveness—is resolution. The relationship conduit remains clear. It does not become clogged or choked with unresolved misunderstandings and hurts.
Friends protect each other, emotionally as well as physically. Thoreau aptly said that “friends cherish each other’s hopes;  they  are kind to each other’s dreams.” Friends motivate, support, encourage. Most of all, they know how to listen and simply be there.

Friendship  enables  you  to  step  off  the stage of life, take off your mask and be yourself in good and bad times.” “Friendship is respecting who you are, not what you are.”

“Friendship is about trust, love, laughter, sharing, forgiveness, understanding, compassion, tolerance, shared experiences.”

“Friendship goes beyond ‘doing’—it is more about ‘being.’

“Friendship is the 3 C’s: Commitment, Communication, Companionship.”

“A friend is a part of yourself.”

“A friend is a person you respect and care for at the same time.”

“A good friend sharpens your character, draws your soul into the light and challenges your heart to love in the greatest of ways.”

“A friend tells you the truth—even if you do not like it.”

“Friendship means sharing openly; trusting always, caring deeply.”

“Friendship requires equality and loyalty.” “When the rest of the world lets you down a friend will find a tiny blue spot for you in the cloudy sky.”

could not live without friends.They have given meaning to my life and I realize now how much I have learned from my friends, especially those whom I admire.

I think we all have experienced the wonderful feeling of having friends over a long span of years with large gaps of passing before seeing them again. And yet when we meet we take up the conversation without missing a beat. We are in tune and have always cared about the same things.

I cherish my friends and what they have taught me. Many have passed on but I think often of what they meant to me in my life.

There was a woman pediatrician who had polio from the age of seven and wore braces on her legs until she died in her mid-eighties. She was the soul of personal courage, dedication to good medicine, compassion, and  despite  all  had  a  joie de vivre. She loved the arts, good books, good music and made friends in her many travels to far off places in the cause of medicine, especially for children.

Another friend I cherish was a woman doctor who was born in Vienna and fled to America to escape the Hitlerian anti-Jewish horror. She was the epitome of courage and had a brilliant mind. She stood strong in the things that counted even if it would have helped her to play along. She was meticulous in her work as a medical librarian and a great cellist.

Other friends who fall into that special category are some of the newspaper women I knew. One of them was my roommate, a fine reporter with an inquiring mind and a great lover of nature. She opened my eyes to the green world around me.

Another friend was a college buddy who later taught literature at the University in Chicago. She was magnificent in her knowledge of the English poets in the Victorian era.  She also was an expert on Gilbert and Sullivan. We were lifelong friends.

Another woman, who was a fashion editor of the Washington newspaper, was  a  great  friend.  We were simpatico in all things and her sense of humor was a joy. She was of Greek heritage and we loved to go to Greek affairs where the music and dancing transformed our lives.

I have many men friends who also paved the way to more learning, greater knowledge  especially  in  journalism and world politics.

Friends are indispensable. They are there when you need them. No questions asked. Their love is unconditional once you have established that you too feel the same way about a friend.

I have been lucky to have good friends and they have made my life so much better.

No man is an island.

Jane Goodall, Ph.D., CBE

Primatologist, Founder—the Jane Goodall Institute, and UN Messenger of Peace

Throughout my life I’ve been blessed with wonderful friends. People who welcome me into their homes and visit mine. Who are always there for me and know that I, too,   am there for them. People with whom I can laugh, or cry, or be silent. In whom I can confide my fears, with whom I can discuss exciting ideas. Friends. We trust, and respect, and love each other.

I can still remember, when I went to a new school, how lonely I was before I found a special friend, when there was no one to giggle with, to confide in, to share jokes with, to plan escapades with. What a difference  it made, when Clo (Marie Claude)  came  into my life and we teamed up to enjoy the present and dream about our futures.

If Clo and I had not forged that friendship among the desks and ink, my African dream might never have materialized.

At least it would have been at a different time and, perhaps, taken a different form. It was Clo who wrote and invited me for a holiday in Kenya, five years after we left school.

Looking back over the 70 years of my life I realize that certain individuals stand out as ‘super friends,’ and chief among these was my mother, Vanne (pronounced ‘Van’). Of course, our relationship began as a typical (or perhaps not so typical) mother-child relationship. But as I matured, so did the bond between us. It was she who supported my childhood dream  of  going  to  Africa  to live with wild animals and write books about them.

It was she who volunteered to accompany me to the forests of Gambia National Park in Tanzania when I was offered the opportunity to study wild chimpanzees. This was because the authorities of what was then the British Protectorate of Tanzania refused permission for a young girl to go into the field on her own.

Vanne stayed with me  for four months, by which time everyone realized that I’d be okay on my own. With Vanne I shared the frustrations of the early weeks when the chimpanzees repeatedly fled at the sight of the strange white ape in their midst. With Vanne I shared the excitement of each new discovery.

As the years rolled by, it was Vanne who provided support whenever the going got tough, with whom I discussed every problem, every success. And so it continued until her death three years ago. She was 94, and had been my best friend for 67 years. Her passing left a void that can never be filled.

One other‘super friend’of my childhood was Rusty. He was a medium-sized black dog, whose coat gleamed copper in the sunlight.

His parentage was uncertain, his influence exceptional, his personality unforgettable.  He accompanied me everywhere dogs were permitted—and many where they were not. He taught me the meaning of unconditional love and loyalty. He was sensitive to  every shift of my mood. He demonstrated—when  I returned, after an absence, or announced “Walkies!”—pure, uncontrived joy. Not without reason has the dog been described as ‘Man’s best friend.’

When  I  began  my  chimpanzee  study I soon realized that friendships were important in the chimpanzee world. David Greybeard was the first individual to lose his fear of me. His close companion was Goliath, the top ranking male of the community. The two often traveled together and spent hours grooming each other. Sometimes I saw them playing, laughing and chasing around a tangle of vegetation. Goliath hurried to support David if he was in trouble, and David, not surprisingly, was more confident when Goliath was part of his group. What was interesting was that Goliath was clearly more relaxed, and better able to stand up  to a challenge from the other males when he was with David. Over the years we have observed many other such friendships, especially between adult males. These close relationships endure over time, and are very different from the temporary alliances often formed between two individuals when each is trying to advance his own position in the hierarchy. They are very political animals!

I know of many strange friendships in the animal world. Particularly moving is the story of the abandoned, starving kitten who has become the inseparable companion of an  orphan  Grizzly  bear.  ‘Cat’  (as  she was subsequently named) evaded all attempts to capture her by the staff of a wild-life refuge in Oregon.

One morning the emaciated kitten went into the enclosure where two-year-old Grizz was eating his breakfast. Those watching expected to witness a sudden ending of her short life. To their astonishment, the bear nudged a morsel of meat from his meal towards the kitten, and watched benignly as she devoured it. From that moment on Cat and Grizz have been inseparable. Grizz shares all his meals. And the two play together and sleep together, the little cat curled up close to her huge friend and protector.

There is one other inspiring friendship I must describe. It is the story of two Jack Russell puppies that were found huddled together, terrified, and covered with blood. They were taken to a humane shelter where the staff found that one of them had been repeatedly stabbed in both eyes.  He was quite blind. After a few days, when his terrible wounds were beginning to heal, he was reunited with his companion. To the wonderment of the staff, the  seeing  dog took it upon himself not only to protect his blind friend, but to guide him around their enclosure, to the food and water bowls, to their bed, and to greet those who came to visit.

The two were found a home where they could stay together and, with the constant help of the seeing companion, the blind youngster would soon find his way around in their new surroundings. They are together still.

In the Bible Jesus says, “Greater love hath no man than he who lays down his life for a friend.” History is filled with inspiring examples  of  heroic  friendships,  personal courage and sacrifice. And in everyday life the value of friendship is driven home again and again, as friends help each other through a variety of personal tragedies and crises, providing help, advice, a sympathetic ear. Offering love and, above all, and loyalty.

These days I travel three hundred days a year, raising awareness of environmental and social injustices, and raising funds for new projects. I could not survive this hectic schedule if it were not for the support and love of the many wonderful friends I have  in so many parts of the world. Friends with whom I can relax and in whom I can confide. With whom I can enjoy a glass of red wine and a simple meal. With whom I can share a good laugh. Indeed, true friendship is one of the greatest blessings in our lives.

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