Real ‘friendships’ are rarest of relationships

PORTLAND, Ore. — Admit it. We all toss the word “friend” around too loosely, in a manner the way use the word “hero.” I have sought to forgo calling someone a “hero” merely because he is good at, say, an athletic endeavor. The real heroes are those who risk their lives to save others.

Friends also are a rare commodity.

A visit this morning with a gentleman I’ve known since the spring of 1962 reminded me graphically of how I have fallen into the “friend trap” by referring to too many acquaintances as friends.

They aren’t. Friends, that is. Not like the relationship I’ve had with the longest-tenured friend in my lifetime.

We go back 58 years together. We met in junior high school. My parents had moved us all from our home in Northeast Portland to what was then the ‘burbs in Parkrose; the city long ago swallowed Parkrose up through annexation.

But as I sat in his mother’s living room this morning, reminiscing with him, his mother and his older brother about the paths our lives have taken, I was filled with the realization that I need to get over the habit of bestowing “friendship” on others who haven’t earned the place in my heart.

Oh, sure, one social medium — Facebook — has allowed us to become “friends” with others. To be honest, I have sough to differentiate Facebook “friends” from the real thing. The only problem I face now, though, is that I refer to the “real thing” as friends when in fact they don’t rise to that level.

My friend and I hooked up immediately when we made each other’s acquaintance in our junior high school home run. We remained friends through the rest of junior high and then into high school. We shared plenty of laughs together, got into plenty of mischief together, shared some down times and heartbreak as well.

But we stuck it out. We hung in there. He remains a friend in the truest sense of the word. I was fortunate, as well, later in the day to hook up with a couple my wife and I have known for nearly 45 years. They, too, qualify as the real thing. We also have been through much together and through it all we remain as close to them as anyone can possibly be.

I just felt compelled today to express my belief that a true-blue friend is a rare find indeed. I am blessed to have found these folks, and yes, a few others, along the way.

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