Saturday, March 12, 2011

on friends & heroes

I'm not good at keeping friends.

It's partly because I have this "out of sight, out of mind" thing about people; I tend to forget about people whom I don't see regularly. It's partly because I tend to smother people in whom I'm interested with attention. It's partly because if I think someone thinks ill of me, I let it upset me, frequently out of all proportion to my actual relationship to the person in question.

Because I'm not good at keeping friends, I've set myself a task of doing two things per week to maintain friendships. It can be stuff like writing a letter or an email, going to Quaker Meeting (see links to the right), or visiting someone.

I think I've learned something recently about keeping friends, though.

I've got a habit of being helpful. I have computer knowledge, tool skills, some specialized knowledge in my career field; I volunteer; I've donated blood about 160 times (and if a blood donation is a pint, that means 20 gallons!). One of the things I'm NOT good at is asking for help or accepting it. (I think this is a guy thing; I think many of my male compatriots are similarly inept, if you will.)

People who help others, but never need help themselves, are heroes, maybe. But they're not friends.

Now, as part of the Anchor House Ride I'm doing this summer, I'm asking people for donations. I'll admit, I wimped out on it, a lot. I sent out an email to about 60 recipients. The one actual "ask" I did was an announcement at the end of Quaker Meeting last week (yes, I'm an atheist who goes to Quaker Meeting; we're not all that rare).

I've had over $400 in donations so far. I've heard from some people I hear from only rarely, and I've even re-established one or two dormant relationships. Asking for these donations has done a lot to maintain some of these old friendships.

I don't know if these people will be willing to donate again if I go again next year. I only know that this has been healthy for the social part of my life.

Several months ago, I signed up for a daily email from The Art of Worldly Wisdom a book of 300 aphorisms on living by the 17th-century Jesuit, Baltasar Gracian (you can get .epub & .pdf versions of his book here). I don't remember seeing in it (yet) about allowing other people to help you. But that's just become one of my aphorisms for worldly living - because it certainly is making a difference for me.


  1. Hi Jim, it's Julie Ann from Philo. Stumbled across your blog from Facebook and wanted to drop you a note. I, too, am bad at maintaining friendships; I've meant multiple times to write you and life, of course, got in the way. I've been temping over at Health and Senior Services in Edison. It's boring as anything, but it's letting me save money for more exciting things like grad school. I'm finally going to Seton Hall in the fall for Non-Profit Management, so there's lots to do before then. How's things with you?

  2. Julie Ann! I get so little traffic, I didn't bother to check my comments until now. I hope you get this, and I hope you are well. I hope, also, that Philo is going well and that you are happily making great music.

    Life with me is good; you'll see from the blog (if you check it) that I get crankier every time I post about anything political, that I should not make any decisions between 1:00 and 5:00 am, and that I ride the bike a lot. I'm riding for a charity ride for Anchor House, and soliciting donations, and generally being a pain to the few friends I have left. And how's yourself?

  3. Gah! I wrote a whole long comment and it got deleted! :(

    Things are aright with me. Full time work is exhausting, but I'm quitting in June to relax and apartment hunt. I think I know who my housemate is going to be, but finding a safe/nice/inexpensive apartment in South Orange might be a tall order. The boyfriend (same one you met) finally got his social work license, so now we just hafta find him a job...

    Philo is good, too. I don't know if you're familiar with the Rutter Birthday Madrigals, but they're jazzy and lots of fun. Not sure how you're feeling about it, but it'd be nice to see you at the concert.

    Politics are enough to make any thinking person cranky. I heard about legislation today to create a voluntary registry to notify your family in case you're in a car accident. I thought to myself, "Wow, Christie passed something I actually don't have a problem with!"

    Keep posting -- I'm terrible at keeping up with people's blogs, but I'll definitely check in again. :)