Naming Our Friends


A few days ago a friend texted to say he had something to give me and when would be a good time to stop by. When he came we sat down. He opened a bag and offered me a small gift as an emblem of our friendship. Handing me the gift, he recounted the thirty-year history of our relationship, all we had been through together. I had stood with him through some of the most difficult days of his life, he said, and he had been with me in my seasons of doubt and darkness. As well, we had been there to witness moments of great joy, hilarity and crazy fun. That was a precious gift worth memorializing, and so he was intentionally visiting four or five people to sit down like this, name the bonds of companionship that felt like the difference between life and no-life, and make a simple offering of thanksgiving.

There was a kind of ritual to his offering–in ten minutes he was gone.

After he left I sat for a moment, almost dazed. Who does such things? I thought of that Proverb, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (17:17). What he had done was to name our friendship, formally, to set it apart as sacred. Of course I knew everything he recounted of our shared lives, but I had never added it up. I didn’t know how significant his presence had been in my life, and mine in his. Someone had to name it.

Many of us struggle with significant friendship. We imagine that we need to go out and “find the right person,” someone who can be that blessed companion in full tide and ebb. What I realized in the wake of that visit is that I already have many promising friends. I just haven’t told them so. Our relationship is just “understood.” Men are particularly good at leaving deep feeling “understood.” I haven’t added up our shared experiences and named it, called it what it is, one of the few things that stand between me and no-life.

If we can find some way to confess our friendship, a line is drawn on the map of our two lives. We both know it. Now we have something to build on. It can be as simple as, next time you meet, saying to your as yet unnamed one, You know your friendship means a lot to me, right?

Three days later I had a business trip to Boston. Before leaving I made a phone call and an appointment to meet a good friend who lives outside the city, someone who has been a mentor for years and is now making friends with his Parkinsons. I found a small gift and tucked it into my bag.

7 Responses to Naming Our Friends
  1. Michael
    April 26, 2018 | 8:35 am

    Hey David, we all have friendships but thanks for the notion of naming them. What a powerful ritual. And thanks too for being my friend. I’m packing a small gift..

  2. sally johnson
    April 26, 2018 | 9:57 am

    I am having lunch today with my friend Janet who lives on the Cape. We have been friends since the third grade–74 years–that’s a long friendship!! And going strong!

  3. Sheila Wise
    April 26, 2018 | 2:19 pm

    I love your word ‘emblem.’ Recently I stayed with friends in Florida, trying to recoup after a difficult time. And I couldn’t find a small gift to symbolize how I feel about them. Didn’t want flowers or wine, or chocolate…..too generic.
    Wonder what the ‘emblem’ was that your friend bestowed upon you? It must have felt appropriate,

  4. Cathy H.
    April 26, 2018 | 3:34 pm

    I love this “naming.” Thank you for sharing. Seems so simple but we don’t always name our blessings. In doing so, your friend – and now you – have inspired more of the same.

  5. Dawn
    April 26, 2018 | 8:32 pm

    Friendship is one of life’s priceless gifts, Thanks, David, for sharing this story.

  6. Nancy
    April 26, 2018 | 8:53 pm

    Abraham Lincoln once ever wrote, “The better part of one’s life consists of his friendships.” I have been blessed to have many friends, but especially blessed to have one truly best friend to always share experiences and count on (in addition to my wonderful family, many who live in the local area). I tell my best friend that I love her virtually every week… in emails, texts and conversations. I try to let my other friends know they are important to me, too. Every single one represents a different dimension to my life. My life is genuinely enriched and SO blessed because of my friends!

  7. Don
    April 26, 2018 | 10:47 pm

    Simply priceless. Simply beautiful. Thank you.

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