The next time you invest in a gift, a new product or the stock market, I want you to stop and think about your friends. That’s right, your friends. The ones who show up when you need them. The ones who count.
You may be surprised to discover you can count your friends on both hands; if you are lucky, you are blessed with around 20. Some you see often, but the others could be the your “way back” friends. You know, friends who don’t get enough of your time, but still hold your heart close to theirs.
Those friends are forever, with an uncanny ability to see you for who you really are and love you anyway. In fact, Maya Angelou suggests there are four questions we are all unconsciously asking of our friends all the time:
- Do you see me?
- Do you care that I’m here?
- Am I enough for you, or do you need me to be better in some way?
- Can I tell that I’m special to you by the way that you look at me?
The last one is personal. I know firsthand how it feels to not feel special to someone. I also know I am guilty of not looking at others the way I should, especially those I really love. I even fail to look at myself with loving eyes at times.
It’s easy to sleepwalk through life: a meeting to attend, calls to return, laundry to get to and dinner to fix. You know the drill. Soon, the habit of not being present spills over into the moments you’re really meant to be present for. I made progress this year. I made new and exciting friends, I showed up when invited, I took better care of myself and I tried hard to always “see” other people.
In October, I made a conscious decision to visit Charleston with four of my sorority sisters from Michigan State University. We rode bikes around the city, learned about its dark history and showered ourselves with art, architecture, a few too many glasses of wine and local food. Although we loved that weekend, we relished the moments we had to listen to each other’s life stories. We listened, we laughed – a lot – and we cried.
Our lives have not gone untouched by pain. Our hearts rejoiced for the good we still saw in each other and broke for those who have suffered and survived. We saw each other and, despite the small, normal irritations that come with traveling and knowing one another so long, we left Charleston knowing we were heard, understood and loved.
My wish for you this holiday season is that you are surrounded by people just like my friends, and may you give your family and each person you meet, old and new friends alike, the most valuable present you can give – yourself!
It takes practice. It takes patience. It takes presence. Believe me, it’s not always easy. But each time you do, you will see your life change – for the better – instantly.