Saturday, July 31, 2010

What Makes a Best Friend?

On a more serious note, this is a question I have been pondering for some time. My kids have a book called Mouse and Elephant and it's about a mouse who goes out looking for a friend. He tries, to no avail, to find a friend in many animals of the forest. They all have reasons why they can't be friends with the mouse. Finally, the mouse meets an elephant who asks what being a friend means. The mouse answers and the elephant says, "Sure, that sounds great." That's the Reader's Digest version of a really very sweet book, but it leads into my question...What would you say makes a friend? What would you say makes a best friend?

I've come to the conclusion that the definition of a "best friend" varies wildly from person to person. The congruence seems to come between two friends who call each other friend. In other words, if you ask your friend how they define "best friend" you will find yourself nodding madly in agreement with them. Try it! You'll see!

How I define best friend is this...ENGAGEMENT

TIME: We have to both care to spend time together. I can't be chasing a best friend around begging them to come over or call me back. This is not to say we have to see each other everyday or anything that regimented like that. In fact, some of my best friends I talk to once a year or so by phone. A best friend is always thrilled to hear from you and makes time for you in person or by phone. Time to engage.

FIT: Our personalities have to jibe. Sometimes this means we both have a sense of humor and being together ignites both of our sense of humor. Sometimes, this means we are both interested in deep chats about certain topics. Sometimes, our strategizing around one or the other's problems, leads us to new solutions. Our collective personality seems to be greater than either of ours individually. Interest to engage.

INTERESTS: Of course, we have to be interested in doing the same things or going the same places. If someone is interested in haute culture and spending copious amounts of money and hates nature, for example, we're probably not going to become friends.

Some people I have asked say a best friend has to be there for have to know they will come when you need them. That's probably a given, but it falls lower on my list because of this: loyalty and steadfastness aren't required, they are given and hopefully reciprocated...but given freely nonetheless.

Here is how the mouse and elephant define friendship...oddly, the mouse is named Nicole (don't let that throw you):
"Friend? Friend? What is a friend?"

The elephant asked. "I've never heard of such a thing."

"Well," Nicole replied, thinking hard,

"I think a friend is somebody you can count on. Friends tell each other their feelings. Friends stick together and help each other."

The elephant thought a while and said, "That sounds good. I don't have anyone like that."

Surprised by the elephant's answer, Nicole said, "But I'm not like you at all! I can't balance on a stand, and I'm not very strong. And I'm much smaller than you are. Aren't we too different to be friends?"

The elephant laughed. "You are silly mouse! Do friends have to be the same size or have the same strength? Do they have to be exactly the same? That's not what you told me a friend was all about."

Nicole smiled.

"Climb up my trunk now," the elephant said, "and we will tell each other our feelings and stick together."

Off they went and began to learn to be friends... And each day as they visited and talked, they became better and better friends, even though one of them was very small and the other very big.

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