I have several types of friends. I don’t have explicit categories, but there are unseen, implicit categories to friendships. What about yours?
First is the friend who I call “friend” when I cannot remember that person’s name. I see someone I should remember and instead of calling them by the wrong name, I say “Hey, friend.” It sounds better than “Hey, person whose name I cannot recall.”
I have facebook friends who I admit into that omnipresent virtual sphere marked by the color blue, buttons and pictures. These people have access to my random rumblings and scattered scenes from my life. They see what updates I let them and read the occasional link, generally kept to a minimum of two or three sentences, and I have absolutely no way of knowing how deep the friendship is when relying solely on the medium which brings us together. At some point, I’ll post my criteria for facebook friendship.
I have friends for whom I’d pull resources together if they needed it. I’m used to being a helper. I serve in a church so I’m accustomed to serving when someone needs something, and serving a person always makes it easier to call them a friend. In my mind, they are acquaintances technically. The association is created and maintained by a specific set of expectations and probably in a working environment. They may be siblings by faith. I usually give those good people what they need or what they’re looking for, and that generally is not me. There is a vocational responsibility which textures this friendship and makes it less of a friendship and more of something else. When I see these friends, I refer to them as church family or my friend from this place or that place.
Then, there are the friends–plain friends. No words before the term, none after. They get what’s boring and clear and simple. These are the people I talk to and hardly have to give the context of my life because they already have it. These good people know the old me at various ages and stages, they know the current me, and they have a hope for the future me. They plan to be around for each. These folks know enough to ask the right questions and they get a pass when they don’t.
I don’t talk to my friends all the time. I don’t have to. But I have access to them. They are reachable. I can find their faces when I must for the most part. Some live many hours away so I downgrade the contacts when needed to text messages or emails or calls. But all these people are here when necessary.
I confuse friendship with family, using family as the label when talking about friends because friends are family in my world. I introduce them as uncle and aunt to my son when I show him their pictures so his little brain can begin knowing and remembering the people who matter most. I answer their emails first. I return their calls even when I don’t want to because in the words of a friend, “I get to.” I hardly ever ignore their calls unless I’m in one of the meetings when answering a call would interrupt another’s heart work. I answer even if to say, “Let me call you back.”
I don’t know how not to give to friends. It can be a flaw.
I show up to hear their practice presentations at 10:30 at night. I stand in their weddings. I meet their significant others to give my thumbs down or up. I preach at their churches or give sermonic points if they’re preaching in their churches. I eat at their homes. I know their families. I give feedback on their soul’s growth. I tell them that they’re wrong when I really believe they are. I don’t fear whether they’ll hate me, whether they’ll stop coming to my church, or whether they’ll tell on me for being too harsh. I sometimes write them notes to say thank you. I call them if they’ve flashed across my mind more than twice in a week or less.
I do my best to make sure that the more narrow pools of friends don’t feel neglected by me. I care about my friends from facebook and my friends from all those other places. I really do. But there are limits to the care I can extend to them. With the friends, the just-plain-friends, the limits are less. They don’t take advantage of that truth, but the truth is there. I’d go to the operating table for them.
Who do you call your friends, the ones without adjectives or other variously employed modifiers? How do you give to those relationships?