Rey's Friends Page

If you have been reading any of my other personal pages, you might think this page is about the TV-show Friends. Although it is a show I like and it does represent something that is essential to me, that is, a group of people who enjoy hanging around with each other and being there for each other, this page is more of a short essay on the value of and anecdotes about friendship.

I have older brothers so I was born into a family of friends. My parents were what some people might call socialites. They loved to entertain and have their friends over to play cards, schmooze, or go out on my Dad's boat. I wasn't too involved in my parent's social swirl, but when I see the movies that my Dad made from those early years, his Matthews yacht is filled with friends and family.

My professional career is still evolving, but one of the high points of my work was when I discovered how important friends were to the development and growth of all of us. I think I always knew this experientially, but I did not realize how I could build on this professionally until I started working with Greg S. who at the time was a graduate student I was supervising and is now one of my business partners and closest friends. We were studying how adolescent peers could learn how to help each other. Those original studies, which were pioneering activities in those days turned into probably the most rewarding and meaningful parts of my professional life.

As soon as I could walk and my parents would let me go by myself across the street to a large playground, Rossi Park, I spent virtually every daylight hour (and later several moonlit evenings) doing things with people I met at Rossi. As part of a contingent of young boys from different racial groups that used to meet rain or shine at Rossi to play whatever sport was in season, it is only in retrospect that I realized how powerful those early experiences have been in setting my soul on track.

On some days we would go on adventures to other parts of the city, taking the bus as a small group. On other days we would travel by bus to play teams at different parks. We spent most of our days together and later most of our nights together. Some members of this group went to the same schools I did and we played on the school sports teams together or belonged to the same school clubs. We typically also visited each other's houses, shared meals, or practiced being polite to each other's parents.

Of course, we practiced alot of other things as well. In retrospect, this is one of the most powerful values of the peer group. The ability and opportunity to try things out, to experiment with new behaviours, to see a friend's reaction, and to be a friend reacting. Taking risks was an important part of growing. Such risks sometimes led to physical fights, arguments, running from the police, or getting into trouble with parents or teachers.

Whatever the outcome, I learned that being a friend and having friends meant that I could stand or experience almost anything. It didn't act as a motivator to do something that went against my conscience or would result in danger to someone else, but it did mean that I could rely on and trust someone to be there for me when I needed support. I have learned that the best way to gain friends is to be a friend. Grey Owl said, that "a friend is a gift you give yourself." What I learned from my early days in Rossi Park was that friendship included experiencing things together, supporting each other, challenging each other to do one's best, and most of all, listening to each other's views, feelings, and thoughts. True friendship has a feeling of mutuality; we do for each other what each of us would like to have done for ourselves. Barbara Varenhorst really sparked that sense for me when she subtitled her book on peer helping, "Becoming the friend you've always wanted to have."

Sometimes I read in the newspaper about someone who has committed what appears to be a horrendous crime. That person also has a friend who is by their side. I often wonder, "how could he or she remain friends with someone who did something like that?" But I know what that's like. I have never committed a crime, but I have been in adverse situations where a risk I took resulted in unwanted public consequences. Yet, my real friends gathered by my side and took the time to let me know they were there for me. In a way, being involved in such events can help to signal the depth of friendship you have with others.

True friendship has some other qualities as well. I wouldn't necessarily call it extrasensory perception (ESP), but one of the additional qualities of friendship is knowing to some degree what the other person is thinking. Not continuous mind-reading, but a kind of "mind-melding" or being on the same wave length that occurs when faced with external events. When I was 12, a small group of my friends and I were out walking down a heavily tree-lined street pretty late at night. A car filled with older, tough looking kids pulled over and the passenger riding shotgun leaned out the window. We all froze. He asked us for directions to a certain street. I told him how to get there, and they drove off. After a few seconds, we all looked at each other and realized the directions I had given him were wrong. Immediately without saying anything to each other, we started to run in the direction of the closest house of a member of our little band. When we got there, we were out of breath, but we knew we had escaped being beaten-up by those older tough guys who were bound to return to find us after they learned we gave them faulty directions.

Now, after studying metaphysics, I would call this type of connection a spiritual merging. It is not the same thing as having the same opinions or viewpoints as another person. It is much deeper and more basic. I think when we are younger we may have easier or less guarded access to this kind of connection with others. Maybe as we grow older, various fears we carry with us interfere with our tuning in to the spirit of another person. Since going through the Course in Miracles and reading the work of Gary Zukav, I have a much greater understanding of spiritual wealth and abundance. I am also grateful to my friends for opening themselves up to me in this way.

Another quality I have come to appreciate in friendship is spontaneity. Although it is typical of most friends to make plans or dates with each other or call each other on the telephone to see if it is okay to come over or to ask them over for a certain function or activity, what separates true friends from acquaintances, is the addition of the spontaneous get together. How many people do you know that you can just drop in on without calling first? When I am cycling around the city, there are various friends that I know I can show up at their place and always receive a warm welcome. My close friend and business partner, David, and I always joke about cycling by each other's place so we can drop-in and get free refills of bottled water.

One other thing I have noticed about real friends is that keeping such friends is both hard work and effortless at the same time. Over the years I have had a number of very close friends. But sometimes circumstances occur where we can no longer see each other as often as we did previously. Maybe a marriage, new job, moving to a different city, all contribute to a change in how we lived out our friendship. What I have noticed is that even though we were very close at the time, when a time period intervenes (say a couple of years), and we get back together again (or even have a telephone conversation), it really takes me a while to warm up to or get back to the type of easy back and forth conversation we use to have. This feels very awkward and I have to work at making our friendship become as effortless as it used to be. I know other people that are able to just start up where they left off, without skipping a beat, as if there was no intervening time period. This does not seem possible for me.

I think another quality that stands out for me is the role that a sense of humour plays in friendship. I don't mean just joke telling or exchanging funny stories. I mean the kind of humour that shows a kind of bond between people. The way that each person can laugh or use humour to help the other person face a challenge or deal with a difficult situation. At the same time I don't mean humour that interferes with really listening or puts down or belittles what a friend is going through. I mean the use of humour as a way to show I am with you, we are part of each other, we are in this together.

I can think of many examples of this kind of humour, and I can recall a connection to it from my earliest years. In 1955 my junior high, Roosevelt, was in the city baseball team playoffs and we were playing another junior high, Benjamin Franklin, a team from what was then known as the Black ghetto (or Fillmore District) of the city. Our team was a mix of ethnic and racial groups, including Black, Asian, Latino, and Anglo kids, and the Ben Franklin team was all Black. They were a tough-talking, no-nonsense team and we were a wise-cracking, prank-oriented team. Our team members had all decided to wear aviator sunglasses, the kind that have silvered lenses. Man, did we look cool. We were in the zone and playing well and we were a couple of runs ahead going into the seventh inning. But the tension was building. I was playing first base, and when one of the opposing team players drew a walk, he stood close to me and said, "you white boys might win the game, but we're going to win the punch-out after." It really shook me up.

I called a time-out and motioned to the other infielders and catcher to meet at the pitcher's mound. We looked like we were having a strategy conference, but as soon as the umpire came out to hear what we were saying, we broke it up and went back to our positions. I had told the other guys what the Ben Franklin runner had told me. Our pitcher, who was Latino, and our catcher, who was Japanese, looked at the rest of us and said, "so how do you white boys plan on dealing with it?" It cracked us all up and definitely reduced my tension. When I got back to first base, I said to the other player, "I was just checking with Koko (the pitcher) as to whether we can stick around for the punch-out or whether we had to get to our dancing lessons right away after the game. He said we got time." The other player cracked a big grin, and if we had known about the high five then, we probably would have slapped each other.

Today I am blessed with a small number of great friends. And fortunately I can also count on my family members in this category. What makes me particularly thrilled, however, is the close friendship I also have with my soulmate. I've never had the opportunity to be in love with a person who is also my best friend. She truly completes me.

Some Favorite Quotes About Friendship
A FRIEND'S GREETING

by Edgar A. Guest

I'd like to be the sort of friend that you have been to me;
I'd like to be the help that you've been always glad to be;
I'd like to mean as much to you each minute of the day
As you have meant, old friend of mine, to me along the way.
The entire poem is available at http://www.appleseeds.org/friend-greeting_Guest.htm
SOULMATES

by Thomas Moore

We are all made up of many worlds and each friendship brings one or more of those worlds to life. One shares with a friend a unique way of looking at life and experiencing it, and so our friendships perform a kind of astrology of the soul, opening planetary worlds for us, to give our lives culture and meaning. To lose a friend is to suffer the loss of worlds.
This excerpt is from the book, Soulmates, and is dedicated to my friend Arthur Rabin whose tragic death came way to early, but whose memory will live in my soul forever.
A TIME TO TALK

by Robert Frost

When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don't stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven't hoed,
And shout from where I am, What is it?
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.
This poem is from the book, Mountain Interval, by Robert Frost
Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.
- Oprah Winfrey
A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.
- Walter Winchell
Friendship, said Christopher Robin, is a very comforting sort of thing to have.
- A.A. Milne
Having someone wonder where you are when you don't come home at night is a very old human need.
- Margaret Mead
It is said that love is blind. Friendship, on the other hand, is clairvoyant.
- Phillippe Soupault
The differences between friends cannot but reinforce their friendship.
- Mao Zedung
Wherever you are it is your own friends who make your world.
- William James
Friendship is a very taxing and arduous form of leisure activity.
- Mortimer Adler
Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
- Humphrey Bogart (as Rick Blaine) to Claude Rains (as Captain Louis Renault) in the movie Casablanca
What kind of a friend would I be if I weren't willing to sleep with your husband?.
- Jean Smart (as Ellie Walker) in the 1995 short-lived TV-series High Society
Alone: bad. Friend: good!
- The Monster in Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
A friend is someone who won't stop until he finds you and brings you home.
- Fraser, Sr. (played by Gordon Pinsent) to Fraser, Jr. (played by Paul Gross) in the TV-series Due South (Feb 13, 1994)
Elaine: Jerry, we have to have sex to save the friendship.
Jerry: Sex to save the friendship! Well, if we have to, we have to!
- From the TV-series Seinfeld (1990)
I figure that a man's friendship for another man is about as honest as anything that comes along.
- William Holden as Jim Dawkins in the 1949 movie Streets of Laredo
The glory of friendship is not in the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is in the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
A real friend never gets in your way - unless you happen to be on the way down.
- Wayne Dyer
A friend is the gift you give yourself.
- Grey Owl

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