Helga’s Heartlines: A Journal
December 26th, 2001
"A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out."
-- Walter Winchell
"Once in an age, God sends some of us a friend who loves us...not the person we are, but the angel we might be."
-- Harriet Beecher Stowe
"No soul is desolate as long as there is a human being for whom it can feel trust and reverence."
"Friendships begin with liking or gratitude roots that can be pulled up."
-- George Eliot
Who would be a friend to the friendless? Who would recognize and ease their pain? Who would find the courage in their heart to be kind? It need be no more than a smile, a friendly word, a helping hand to someone lost, or alone, or ostracized – simple deeds. Or, it could be much more – moral or even practical support. Make no mistake: such gesture in the face of the closed ranks of cliques and ‘insiders’ towards those designated as ‘loners’ or ‘different ‘ or ‘strange’ is a compassionate, audacious and profoundly moral thing to do. An act perhaps applauded by forces unseen? Anyway, I, for one, would salute you, while some tortured soul might be eternally grateful. Such episodes of brotherly love as these have been known, literally, to change a life. They sometimes reinforce the fact that one’s self-image is erroneous; that one is better than that estimation feared or assigned. The ultimate possible outcome - some unfortunate such as this may actually turn out to be the best friend you ever had!
If empathy comes from identification, who then is immune from caring?
Who has not been there at one point, at some time, in some way, in their own life? Even the famous and celebrated among us - politician, sports hero, military icon and movie star?
Do you flee from the embarrassing reminders of your former imperfections when you find them or do try to reach out to those vulnerable others?
There are agonizing experiences and perceptions each of us never forgets derived from the growing pains of childhood and adolescence: awkwardness, humiliation, self-consciousness, rejection. We are all familiar with the patterns and prototypes. The anorexic, rail-thin gamine who sees a fat girl reflected when she looks in the mirror; the former wallflower-cum-femme-fatale who over-compensates from a secret lack of conviction she is desirable and beautiful; the first-born son who fears he is never quite good enough to measure up to his ‘tycoon’ daddy.
Were you the one in class or team sports or at the high school dance who nobody picked to partner with? Were you the one who tagged along behind at the playground? Did the kids always run off without you? Were you simply painfully shy? Were you a victim of circumstances beyond your control? Perhaps you were too smart or too small for your age or too tall? Maybe your family moved too often for you to make friends, so you felt inept, socially. Maybe you had a learning disability that wasn’t identified, so you and everybody else believed you weren’t very bright?
Some real-life situations confessed to me many years after the fact, terrible to contemplate: A lonely teenage girl who spent her lunch hours ‘lost’ in the library during her first year of high school. A sensitive teenage boy whose first date felt like the psychological equivalent of being cut by thousands of razor blades. An infant who suffered the lack of loving and nurturing embrace he needed for bonding at a critical stage of development. Never mind the numerous cases of child abuse I’ve heard of, but never personally known of. What could be more awful than that?
I’m well aware that we carry these psychic wounds around with us long after our circumstances have improved and we ourselves have changed. I have a few of my own. The hurts are hidden but not entirely healed. They lie dormant; linger achingly, just below the surface. One needn’t scratch very hard or deep. Now, what if, right then when it would have counted most, someone had reached out? Held you, talked to you, sought you out? How much more whole you would have been today? Nothing can be done about that any more, but we do have the power to see to it that the same thing doesn’t happen to some other person.
More than once in my life the miraculous has occurred for me. A welcome friend, an ally, an ‘angel’ in retrospect, has been there for me, suddenly, when I feared being vulnerable and conspicuously alone. Most often a ‘She’, she took me under her wing and befriended me. Thus have I had the most wonderful female friends, over the years. Some of my best friends and the greatest of them, have been ‘He’s’ as well. Because of them I am more secure in my insecurities. Now I find myself asking, “Whose angel am I?” These days, who needs MY help?
And YOU? Be an angel, will you? Befriend someone. You and they will be glad you did.
~ Helga Marion Ross ~