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Commentary: You've Got A Friend

By William Holston

Dallas, TX –

Your outlook changes about many things as you get older. For commentator William Holston, that includes the meaning of friendship.

When I was younger, I think my friendships were based on common interests. That may be what begins a friendship, but it's not what makes them endure. I met my best friend Jeff in law school. Over time we've realized how little we actually have in common. I love camping. Jeff's idea of camping is showing up early to a baseball game to watch batting practice. He still reminds me about the time I brought a Dostoyevsky novel to a Mets game. Jeff is Jewish. I'm an evangelical Christian. I love literature. He knows every Bruce Springsteen song by heart. What really forms our friendship is a combination of longevity and loyalty. Together, we've been through every major life event: graduations, weddings; the birth of our children, and the death of parents.

But the challenge of difficult times really cemented our friendship. Our mutual friend Calvin, died from pancreatic cancer in 2001. Jeff and I spent many hours with him at hospitals. We talked to doctors and nurses, helped move our friend from room to room, and just sat and told him we loved him. We'd meet each other at the hospital, on the way to work. I know Jeff will be there for me when it counts, because we were there for Calvin. There's nothing in life that we don't talk about honestly.

I have friends with common interests. Three of my long time friends are backpacking buddies. We've had lots of adventures together. Now spread all over the country, we don't get together much as we used to. But when we do, the years peel away as if no time had intervened. We celebrate the history we have together.

I had a couple of reminders of longstanding friendships a few weeks ago. I celebrated the birthday of a friend from law school, who is critically ill in a nursing home. I sat at a table with other lawyers and thought how we were still there for each other. Later that day, at the wedding of the daughter of two of my oldest friends from a college singles group, the room was full of people I met over 30 years ago. We all showed the effects of those intervening years. But we immediately cut through all the small talk and focused on things that really matter.

The common denominator in all of these friendships is that we talk about the substance of our lives. And, we are mostly honest with each other. We accept each other, flaws and all.

I now know what a valuable resource a friend is. I have a shorter list of who my friends are, but I have much higher expectations of them. A friend is someone who walks along side me and helps me to survive the trials that I know are coming. A friend speaks the truth to me, whether I want to hear it or not. A friend asks me how I'm doing, and actually wants to know the true answer. A friend helps me to be the best person I'm capable of being. I'm thankful I have friends like that.

St. Augustine wrote in his Confessions, "They are my true brothers, because whether they see good in me or evil, they love me still. To, such as these I shall reveal what I am." James Taylor put it a little differently, "Ain't it good to know you've got a friend?"

William Holston is an attorney in Dallas.

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