What Kind of Friend
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I love music and am always touched when artists capture a human emotion that causes one to reflect on incidents in life, or life in general. James Taylor does so for me in his song (written by Carole King), "You've Got a Friend."
In our True Growth seminars, we share crucibles, traumatic events that cause change in our behavior. I have had several crucibles in my life, the most recent being the sudden loss of my wife, Karen. We were married for 42 years when she passed away unexpectedly in 2013. Taylor's words were so true: "When you're down and troubled and you need a helping hand..." As my kids and I dealt with extreme grief, we were comforted by calls, notes and visits from friends and family members. I can remember how much it meant to us and how comforting the gestures of kindness were. They let us know we weren't alone and how much they cared about us, and we felt very grateful for their friendship.
In the two years since that awful day, I have come to understand a few lessons, not the least of which is the importance of being a good friend. I had not been as good as some of my friends who so kindly and thoughtfully supported us. What brought this to light was a rather curious phenomenon, our tragedy seemingly and surprisingly ignored by a few friends. No card, letter, phone call ... no communication at all.
I "bumped into" a few of these friends in my hometown after my wife's passing and we shared an awkward moment. They felt guilty and I felt uncomfortable. I knew they were friends, yet wondered why we hadn't heard from them. One or two even failed to acknowledge Karen's death at these encounters, puzzling me all the more. Looking back on it, I concluded they just felt very inadequate and didn't know what to say. The contrast between their behavior and that of the proactive ones taught me a good lesson on how to be a good friend, and I have tried very hard to be just that ever since.
In thinking about all of this in the context of our True Growth experience and Army service, I concluded that being a good friend to fellow Soldiers and friends during tough times (casualties, loss or serious illness/injury of a Soldier or family member) is an important characteristic of a genuine person/leader. It doesn't take much, just a call or note or short visit. An arm around the shoulder says it all. Eloquence isn't important. Just doing/saying something is. Nine times out of ten, the person experiencing the crisis puts you at ease, and you feel so much better for having made the effort. More importantly, your friend knows the answer to James Taylor's question: "Ain't it good to know, you've got a friend?"
What kind of friend are you?
True Growth Takeaway:
Being, and having, a true friend is the greatest gift we can give ourselves and others.
True Growth Journal Questions:
How many true friends do you have? What can you do to become a true friend to others?
About the author:
Bob Clark served for over 36 years in the United States Army. Highlights of his Army career include command of Fifth U. S. Army (ARNORTH), command of the 101st Airborne Division (AASLT), command of 3d Brigade (Rakkasans) of the 101st in Desert Shield/Storm, and platoon leader in the 1st Cavalry Division in Viet Nam. He retired from active duty in 2007 and resides in San Antonio, Texas.
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