“When you’re down and troubled
And you need a helping hand
And nothing, nothing is going right
Close your eyes and think of me
And soon I will be there
To brighten up even your darkest night
You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I’ll come running, to see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you’ve got to do is call
And I’ll be there, ye, ye, ye,
You’ve got a friend”
Carole King’s words are a reminder of what friendship means to me. Like many others, when I was younger, I used to find it hard to make friends, who to trust, the usual worries of someone trying to carve their pathway through life. What changed my mind was something a co-worker once said to me when I was working briefly in Germany and at the time I found quite reassuring: one of his parents and said to him that if you only have one true friend in your entire life then you’re really lucky.
What do you think?
It is one thing saying you have lots of friends, but how many of those friends are truly good friends? Friends that you can really depend upon and they can rely on you when the going gets tough, or when you are not at your best?
“If the sky above you
Should turn dark and full of clouds
And that old north wind should begin to blow
Keep you head together
And call my name out loud now
Soon you’ll hear me knocking at you door”
Not only does a true friend shade that naked vulnerability exposed when you feel broken or damaged, they show warmth, compassion and empathy and even when empathy is hard, they listen and are brutally honest. What else? An ability to express hurt, slob around in pyjamas, say whatever, whenever; tease, play games, be serious, laugh, cry, joke, have a karaoke competition, go camping together, run together, eat, cook, clean (or not) together, share, show, shelter. Be able to say what you like when you like and know they won’t be judge because you feel safe, secure. You can just be you….
The reciprocity of friendship has been something I’ve had to learn: like any relationship, give and take can be a tricky equilibrium to strike. It can be hard at times and I am saddened to admit I’ve lost friends through selfishness: when we become bogged down in our own turmoil and temporarily convinced we are the centre of the universe, I can understand why some friends might decide to walk away.
“Ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend
When people can be so cold
They’ll hurt you, and desert you
And take your soul if you let them, so don’t you let ’em now”
Some friends are near; other friends live afar, yet I know that the connections made in primary school and university will last forever. Call them up, or bump into them on the street and it will be like nothing has changed in twenty or thirty years. LA, Berlin, Vienna, Sydney, Havana, Mexico City, Oslo, Jerusalem, Athens, London, Glasgow, Nottingham, Leeds and Penzance. Miles may separate our current life experiences, but memories are dotted and scattered all around the world and just down the road, so I know that we are still friends.
“Ain’t it good to know you’ve got a friend?”