The Sustaining and Uplifting Fizz of Friendship
If the sky above you,
Grows dark and full of clouds,
And that old north wind begins to blow,
Keep your head together,
And call my name out loud,
Soon you’ll hear me knocking at your door. …
Now, ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend.
I was reminded of that Carole King song recently when a new friend came to my rescue. That recollection harkened me back to a more distant time, when a different friend offered the lyrics as testimony to our bond, after already demonstrating it through her actions. Both speak to the indomitable power resulting when people actively care.
The earlier example of the golden rule in action came via the first neighbor I met after moving to Florida. Knowing nothing about me other than the outward evidence of physical disability, Bonnie pledged her assistance in whatever manner possible. This was not a hollow offer.
Over nearly eight years, Bonnie’s support has been unflagging. She and members of her family routinely help out with household maintenance. Bonnie was instrumental in securing a loaner transfer lift, which I later acquired for pennies on the dollar. She periodically checks in, without being asked, to see how I am faring and to provide engagement. Whenever I have reached out in need, Bonnie has always responded with dogged determination.
Case in point: Over a Fourth of July weekend when my wife was out of the country, my lift chair became inoperable. Despite the holiday, and unbeknownst to me, Bonnie scoured the local landscape for any open furniture or equipment purveyors. After striking out during the initial search, she creatively thought of the Goodwill store. They had a chair, which Bonnie bought, picked up, unloaded, and moved into my family room — all on her own. I am blessed and honored to have her in my corner.
Fast-forward to last month, when I benefitted from my new friend’s warmth. Holly and I got acquainted because of my columns and a subsequent email exchange. We kicked around the notion of meeting, as she was a new transplant to the area where I live. My impression was that she is a compassionate, nurturing soul. In that regard I underestimated her.
Coincidental with Holly settling in, one of my regular aides took ill. Upon learning of my predicament, and sensitive to my reliance on daily care, she volunteered to be a stopgap solution. Although she was a lifelong, professional caregiver, she insisted on no remuneration.
Her experience and skills were on ample display during the shadowing morning. Holly speaks mostly English. The aide she was observing speaks mostly Spanish. I speak mostly unintelligibly. Despite the inherent challenges, we avoided staging a Marx Brothers-like farce — “[H]ere is a viaduct. … Why a duck?“ — with me, a la Harpo, in strenuous translational pantomime. All told, Holly took care of me six stress-free times. She is a rare gem.
Bonnie and Holly literally come knocking at my door. As does my pastor. His regular visits have come to be viewed as “uncorking.” In addition to spiritual replenishment and growth through prayer, Bible study, and communion, they relieve emotional contents under pressure. The effervescent release provides a heady, natural intoxication. My friendship with Pastor K is a vital life-energy source.
The friends of mine residing outside of ready commuting distance can’t grace my doorstep. They figuratively knock nevertheless. Whether by email, social media, or old-school postal delivery, they shower me with affectionate contact. Seemingly, whenever I need it most, one or another, like rotating sentry duty, will touch base to assure that all is well and validate my worth. Each is a miniature “uncorking.”
ALS has left me adrift in never predictable waters. Tolerance of the undulating ups and downs is something of an acquired taste. Winds constantly blow me out farther, to great distances in the Dependent Sea. Without warning, a squall may kick up and threaten to cross me over to the Urgent Sea. Worse yet are the typhoons depositing me in the Emergent Sea. My friends form an expert nautical team that unfailingly gets me back to calmer surf.
“Best friends” strikes me as a transitory designation. Even when paired with “forever,” as in “BFF,” it lacks permanence. Too often, its fickle duration is subject to whim, fortune, or circumstance.
I contrast that with “best friendships.” Best friendships emerge when we obey God’s command to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If we behave as God constructed us to, we exist in synergistic harmony with one another. It is one of his richest blessings. I am gifted to enjoy a plethora of best friendships.
As I uncork, here’s to us! Drink up!
Note: ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.