*Play this song whilst you read this post.*
My first ever friend was at primary school – Sue – and she and I remained friends forever. Till she sadly died of cancer a few years ago. When I went to visit her for the last time at her home on the farm, it was just before my first book was published and I sat on the edge of her bed and she took my hand and said ‘I’ll be watching Prue, and I want you to do this and do it well. You were always the writer at school.’
Sue died the next day and I remember leaving her farm and driving through the gates and onto the dusty road and then pulling over and sobbing that such a vibrant person who took so much interest in everyone else’s lives should be leaving us…
She defined friendship for me – interest and care. And not just words either. Active interest, active care. She would drive from the farm into town to meet her friends and play cards and I would drive up the Midland Highway and meet her for lunch at Oatlands. THAT is friendship.
In this day and age it’s easy to say things, far harder to put money where one’s mouth is. But one thing I learned from my mum and from Sue is that friendship is a ‘doing’ thing, not a glib verbal thing. And that’s the way I try to be to my own friends – to do, to show them I care for them by being there for them in need, laughing and crying with them, cooking a cake or a casserole, visiting, clapping for their successes, a hand on shoulder or a hug if they need it.
Which brings me to Facebook.
My online life has introduced me to so many interesting people – articulate, compassionate people who show a real interest in life and friendship. It’s a pity we are all separated by kilometres of sea and air but somehow it doesn’t matter, because you know that if they were within bull’s roar, they would indeed be there – ‘doing’ rather than just ‘saying’.
I have had friends who have offered to help me with my research and indeed my published life. Brian and his wife hopping around Templar ruins in Provence with a video camera, Jane searching for 12th century dust in Istanbul, Pat finding maps, Simon and Ann (friends from so far back in our joint writing lives) demystifying the whole indie landscape, Johnny editing with language that makes Mrs. Brown’s Boys sound like a Sunday school picnic, Alex who always knows the right sort of herbs and fragrances to suggest to elevate tired body and spirit, Louise who just seems to understand me. And that’s just to name a few of many!
These are people I have never met and may never meet in the flesh, but it seems to me that we are actually closer for that because it removes the whole bulldust (Australia, slang: blatantly false) issue of ‘physical first impressions’ – something which often seems to stymie a friendship from going forward.
The key to what I view as friendship is that the Facebook cadre put in effort and give such joy.
Once someone said to me that being a good friend means you can pick up easily after leaving alone for a long time. Oh golly, how I disagree! I think friendship depends greatly on effort and on giving. Otherwise it’s out for a duck instead of hitting a six. (U.S friends will have to find a cricket dictionary for that reference!) .
That’s what Sue did for me and what I endeavoured to give her back. It’s what my online friends give me every day and what I want to give by return. It’s what my husband has given and continues to give unstintingly since I first met him all those years ago.
may your 2015 be filled with the kind of friends you just want to bear hug, and I can’t wait to see you all in the New Year.
Have a great celebration everyone!