How Many Friends Do I Really Have?

A woman with her finger on the lips.

I read recently that only half of the people you consider as a friend are actually friends.  Granted, the study was small and only included college students, but that is a worrisome conclusion.  The criteria to become my friend has always been easily met and, certainly, friends come and go throughout the passage of time.  I would be very disappointed if only half of them actually considered me their friend.  Heck, I’m looking for a 95% score.  E.M. Forster’s view on friendship is, “If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country”.  I don’t think I would carry things that far, but the point is that friendship ranks pretty high in the scheme of things.  I don’t think I ever had a friend that I just dropped.  Mostly, they just moved away and weren’t close enough to maintain a relationship.  Friends are those we turn to for consolation when we’re sad, share joy and concerns, and give us a sense of self-worth when we doubt ourselves.  I am a better person because of my friendship with others.

I read an article the other day that archaeologists have determined that by 1900 BC, the ancient Assyrians had established one of the first postal services, and I recalled that in my lifetime I have known two people that could not read nor write.  One had a very successful life in our coal camp and the other was the wife of an important family member.  As a young boy (age 8-9), I cut the fellow’s grass and the tall weeds on the hill above his driveway.  It would take around 1 ½ hours and when I finished, he would reach into his pocket and pull out a handful of change, open his palm, and tell me to take 35 cents.   I never thought much about the fact that he didn’t hand me the correct amount.  I just knew that he was, perhaps, the wisest man I knew at that time.  The only woman I knew that was illiterate was a kind and gentle person and was an expert cook and homemaker.  Several times I offered to teach her to read & write but she always told me that: “I get along just fine”.   She passed away about 25 years ago but I still think of her often.  As Nido Qubein says; “Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start”.
Do these lines sound familiar:  “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”?
They are carved in stone above the entrance of the monumental James A. Farley Post Office in New York City. We assume this is the motto of the U.S. Postal Service, but the USPS doesn’t have one. It was just the world’s largest postal service nodding respectfully to one of its most illustrious forebears, King Darius of Persia (1900 BC).  His mail service was so efficient that   historian Herodotus said: “These men will not be hindered from accomplishing at their best speed the distance which they have to do, either by snow, or rain, or heat, or by darkness of night”.  The Farley Post Office, opened in 1914, and one of its architects read Greek for pleasure in his off-hours and selected a modified translation by a Harvard professor to adorn the building.  I wonder how many other things are floating around inside my head that are profoundly untrue.  “Men ardently pursue truth, assuming it will be the angel’s bread when found” …….W.M. Dixon.    Hmmmm, don’t know about that!

Doctors are saying now that obese women are three times more likely than their thinner peers to get Alzheimer’s Disease.  The report stated that one of the early signs of dementia is the change in a person’s walking gait.  Allegedly, you will also find it difficult to walk and talk at the same time.  A popular test, they say, is to count backwards from 100 while you walk.  I thought that part amusing because I started counting backwards from 100 several years ago while holding my back in an arch off the floor during my morning exercise routine.  I tried it out on my very next daily walk and, of course, nailed it!  I’m left wondering how such a simple test could be indicative of dementia.  I think, maybe, it’s because you’re having to divide your brain resources between the different tasks and that’s where the difficulty lies.  Bottom line, eat your greens, exercise daily, maintain your social connections, and use your brain a lot.  I have often said that TV will dumb you down faster than anything else you can do.  Unwittingly, there were studies that supported my theory, I just wasn’t aware of them.  As Albert Camus said: “Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend”.

I have started a new project that relies entirely on my carpentry skills.  We found a marble table top insert, during one of our daily walks, that someone had placed on the curb.  I brought it home thinking “someday I’ll find a use for this thing, it’s just too nice to make that trip to the garbage dump just yet”.  Well, a couple of weeks ago I decided to replace our kinda worn-out picnic table and bench that sits out by the shed and to use the marble piece as an insert in the middle of the table.  Of course, I have to draw up the plans, purchase the materials needed, and then apply my carpentry skills. Well, that’s where the rub comes in to play.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited about this project and the possibility to see if I can really summons the skills necessary to do a good job.  Right now I’m waiting for some sunshine to appear because we have had rain for weeks.  I think it’s important to always have something in my life to look forward to, if not to make it exciting, make it at least interesting.  I cannot remember the last time I was bored, oh, wait a minute, it was while watching American Idol on TV with my wife (her favorite show).  If she finds out about this, I’m in a lot of trouble :.   Robert Louis Stevenson aptly said: “A man must not deny his manifest abilities, for that is to evade his obligations”.   I’m just not sure that carpentry is part of my manifest abilities.

We recently travelled to PA, NY, CT and my hometown of Oakwood, VA.  During those travels we visited a lot of people that are near and dear to our hearts.  I would like to include a note penned by Beatrice Drummond that sums up how we feel:  “Today, I opened memory’s door and softly stepped inside.  I looked around and soon I found old friends were by my side.  I’ve thought of them so many times since days of long ago, though miles and years have made a change- each one, this day, I know.  I saw my special schoolmates, too, and recalled the days of yore, of pleasant conversations held outside the classroom door.  I also saw my neighbors there upon my memory’s page; some were happy youngsters…and others…bent with age.  For me this once time has stood still, allowing me once more, to visit with old friends of mine, just inside memory’s door.  I’ll shut the door so softly now, as though to close a book, but someday I’ll reopen it and take another look”.