Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Etiquette of Friendship

One of life's greatest pleasures for me is traveling. I am really in my element when I see new places and meet new people. I have recently returned from a wonderful trip to England as many of you know. And now, as I type this, I am on Air Canada winging my way south to the magical island of Mustique for a ten day vacation. I admit, I am one very lucky guy. Given the fact that twelve years has passed since my last overseas trip however, I am not feeling even a twinge of guilt. And as it turns out, not so surprisingly, that one of the common denominators which ties these two delightful getaways together is friendship.

On my trip to England I was hosted by one of my most trusted colleagues and closest friends, Britain's youngest etiquette expert, William Hanson. Although we had developed a friendship over the years through correspondence, the opportunity to actually meet face to face can only be chalked up to serendipity. Friends are like that though. We meet some people with whom we form lifetime friendships quite by chance. In fact, most close relationships more than likely form that way.

On my current trip, in contrast, I am be being hosted by a friend of 40 years, but someone whom I haven't seen in over a dozen years. But somehow over the years though, we have remained as close as many brothers and sisters might have done. We have kept up with most, although not all of the major events in one another's lives; and we have acknowledged most birthdays and Christmases, important family milestones, such as births, marriages and deaths. But more importantly we have held each other in our hearts. We have thought of each other often, occasionally picking up the phone or firing off an email just to stay in touch and to say I love you.

Our lives all take paths which veer off in directions which we could never have imagined. Our interests change. Our significant relationships change. We raise families, deal with health issues, both our own and those of loved ones. Yet somehow through the tangled web we weave and call our life, we somehow magically maintain a few very special friendships. We all know who these people are. We know how much they mean to us. Sometimes we might even know how much we mean to them. But without them we both know our lives would simply not be the same.

Personally, I am blessed with a number of great friends. Those whom I am fortunate enough to see only once every few years, if I'm lucky, hold a different place in my mind than those with whom I spend most of my time. There is something different about seeing people everyday. We get used to them and sometimes we might even take our friendships for granted. This shocking thought came to mind recently and I began wondering what is going on here? Do I really not appreciate my everyday friends as much as I might were I not so fortunate to see them all the time? There is the old expression "Absence makes the heart grow fonder." Is this what is really happening to me?

The answer for me and for many of you will more than likely be a resounding yes. This sudden awareness sort of woke me up to the whole notion of friendship and how grateful I am to have my friends.

As I began thinking about who my friends really are, where they are, and what they are doing with their busy lives, I realized that that list is really, really important to me. I am not revealing some hidden secret here. We all know exactly what I'm talking about. But like the sudden reminder I just received quite unexpectedly, I hope you are reminded of this in the same way.

Get out that old address book. With any luck, you've jotted down most people in it in pencil, so you can keep current with their addresses and telephone numbers, cell phones, and so forth. As you go through the dog-eared pages, you too will be flooded with a whole host of memories. I hope most of them are great ones. Some will be sad. People inevitably move out of our lives for a variety of reasons. Some even die. But for those who bring a smile to your face and a warm feeling into your heart, experience the real sense of gratitude for having these people in your lives. This is your happiness well. Drink from it often. Never let them go. Reconnect with them, even if it's a quick note or a phone call. And for heaven's sake, tell them you love them and that you are thinking about them. Happiness is a two way street. I hope my friends know who they are. But just in case, I'm going to make sure they do. I encourage you to do the same.