Tag Archives: helpful friends

Friends: All The Gold You Can Carry.

By: Chris Warren.

After completing a fairly large favor for a buddy (it involved my convenient status as a truck owner), he thanked me and said, “You are truly my best friend. You have supported me more…and done more than expected.” I’ve known this guy for thirty years. We have never kept score of who has done the most for whom. If one of us needed something, the other would come through with no preconditions. Some relationships cannot be fully quantified; it’s the unspoken and un-numerated vibe between two people that makes friends so special.

I’m sure I’m not the first person to notice the contradiction of more and more isolation in a time when we are more and more connected. These relationships, such as they are, take place almost entirely via the internet or cellphones, which is a big part of the problem. What can be seen in all the forlorn Tweets and Facebook posts are the results of trading quality for quantity. The bar has been lowered to the point where the definition of “friendship” includes dozens of people we are acquainted with to some degree but rarely see in person and in some cases have never met. There is such a thing as having too many friends.  It’s like a pirate plundering gold: Nice for what it is, but if you have more than you can carry, more doesn’t matter.friend friendship

There are less than six people in this world I consider my sincere, true friends. One of the things that makes us different is that we almost never communicate over the internet. We do talk on the phone or text a lot, but that is in addition to regularly meeting up face-to-face, not in place of it. I get a feeling of warmth and acceptance knowing a friend is excited to see me that cannot translated into an on line exchange.

One of the main barriers lonely people face is they usually don’t want to put any effort into friendships. They often claim they don’t have the time to invest in friendships due to family or work commitments. Being a good friend is more than just clicking “like” once in a while. A generation ago people also had families and jobs yet still found time for neighbors and friends and socializing. It’s not like personal obligations didn’t exist pre-Microsoft. The excuse is weak. Trucking my buddy’s stuff around in the cold, miserable rain was not my idea of an awesome weekend. Actually, it really sucked. I carved out the time and did it anyway because he matters to me. Great friendships are never effortless. Things are only as important as you want them to be.

I’ve lived my whole life under the principle that having a few tight friends I can always count on is better than many loose associates who maybe possibly will be there when you need them. Why there is so much isolation in a world where everyone and everything is electronically linked doesn’t matter to people who for whatever the reason cannot make any interpersonal connections, or worse, think the internet and whatever Dr. Phil is selling this week is a replacement for interpersonal connections.

It may not be possible to quantify friendship, but it is certainly possible to measure the effects of (or lack of) it. It’s been well researched and established that people with real, meaningful friends live longer and better. Self help books and television shows are a multi-billion dollar industry. Prescription drugs to treat mental health issues are so popular, there are commercials for them. The mental health & self-help cartel would go out of business if everyone would just get out and meet other people and their natural goodness run its course. I don’t need science to convince me of the value of friends. For thirty years I’ve been able to see and feel it for myself in every smile and hug.

Breaking My Own Inertia.

By: Chris Warren

If all you knew about me was whatever was on my website, you might get the impression that I’m a pretty adventurous, open minded spirit who is always on the lookout for new experiences. It’s easy to forget that a blog article, like a photograph, is just a snapshot. It reflects a truth, but it’s only a moment of truth. There is no context to connect the moment to events that came before and after. It can be misleading because photographers and writers will self-sensor themselves, picking and choosing what they want to reveal. It’s not necessarily dishonest, it’s the nature of the medium.

This past weekend, I went with a buddy to the Chicago Air & Water Show. I’d probably seldom if ever go to Chicago if it were not for him living there. I’m just not a much of a city person. I live far enough away that going there takes some planning and effort, so I have a built in excuse to avoid the place. This time, my friend would not let me be held back by my own obstinance.

The CTA (public transit) bus was not particularly crowded when we boarded. As we get closer to the lakefront and the bus makes its stops, it starts filling up. Our fellow travelers were themselves a microcosm of humanity: The tired-looking construction worker. The old lady with grocery bags. Three sooo cute hispanic brothers, the oldest was maybe six. Two teenagers speaking what sounded like an eastern European language. Several African Americans. Two Asian guys, also not speaking English. One of them had a Chicago Fire Department uniform on. A babbling loud mouth sitting in the back who could be heard across the whole bus. Then there’s me, the basic white guy feeling totally out of his element, and my friend, who is Filipino. The bus stops and driver announces the end of the line. As we file out the door, it occurs to me that I’ll probably never see any of these people again and I have a brief philosophical moment about what fate, good or bad, made me miss. Except for the babbling loud mouth. Never seeing him again has no downside.

Blue Angels over Chicago. Photo courtesy U.S. Navy
Blue Angels over Chicago. Photo courtesy U.S. Navy

A short walk later we behold mighty Lake Michigan stretching out in front of us. There is a wave of humanity almost as impressive as the lake itself following the curve of the shore for as far as we can see. An earth-shaking roar of six F-18 Hornet jets announces the arrival of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, and it becomes obvious why everyone is here. It’s impossible to fully appreciate the Angels’ skill by watching them on video. The Blue Angels are so good, it almost looks fake. It’s not fake. They really are that good. There are countless picnics and beach parties going on. A girl who appeared to be less than 18 years old was on a large boat in the harbor, barely dressed and dancing in an over-the-top way that, well, uhhm, let’s just say Miley Cyrus could take lessons from her.

After the air show we walked to Navy Pier and then Millennium Park, eventually ending up at Buckingham Fountain. The Chicago Symphony was playing. The weather is perfect and we’re having an awesome time. My friend was not done with me yet. We headed over to Michigan Avenue. It was bustling and lively and happening. It was also a place of unsettling contrasts: A homeless guy begging for change; a few steps away is a display window of Rolex watches that individually cost more than what most people pay for a car. By time we got back to my friend’s apartment, we had been on the go for over nine hours, most of it walking. I was beyond beat.

Buckingham Fountain, Chicago Grant Park. Photo courtesy WBBM television.
Buckingham Fountain, Chicago Grant Park. Photo courtesy WBBM television.

The aftermath of my kickass cool roadtrip to Chicago was an old refrain for me: I am not by nature an adventurous, open-minded spirit. Like most people, I have my ways and don’t like drifing too far from them. But if I am nagged and pushed into trying something different, I end up liking it. It seems I never want to go anywhere or do anything…until I do. Then I’m all into it.

In my senior year in high school I knew I wanted to go to college but was not ready to leave home. My toughlove, zero-tolerance-for-bullshit dad made it clear that he was not going to put up with me sitting around his house for free while I, in his words, “contemplate the world.” So it was mutually decided I would live at home and enroll at a local junior college. It was a perfect fit: I could keep my part time job, rack up some academic credits, and satisfy mom and especially dad that I had goals and was making real progress towards achieving them. I did not make the connection at the time, but their parental pressure eventually came to its intended conclusion: A little less than two years later, I abruptly announced that I was going to transfer to a four year university and finish my degree. To prove I was serious, I set everything up at my new school before revealing my plans. Mom and dad were somewhat blindsided by my declaration, but very pleased.

Chicago from North Avenue Beach  ©2014 twentyfirstsummer.com
Chicago from North Avenue Beach ©2014 twentyfirstsummer.com

Since I’m not the type of guy who goes looking for new experiences on his own, I’m grateful to be surrounded by people willing to push me into them. In all of these situations, I came out better for it. I would not have suggested going to the lakefront with all the crowds and hassles and my general aversion to big cities. But wow, am I ever glad my friend did not give in to my reluctance. The entire weekend was a total blast! And either by coincidence or deliberate parental wisdom, my mom and dad did not allow me to stagnate in my own equivocation about what to do with my young self. They knew I was capable of succeeding so they helped me find a path forward and pushed.

I ultimately graduated from college, got over the hump of entering the workforce, and went about my productive if not unremarkable life. Today, there are no looming big decisions before me that need to be made, or avoided. I am well aware that there are few constants in this world and sooner or later I will probably be faced with a grand opportunity more consequential than spending a fun weekend in Chicago. When that moment comes, I hope I can motivate myself to act, and if I can’t act on my own, I hope someone who cares is nearby to give me a kick over the line.