Profile of a friend: The Giver

This post is part of an ongoing Saturday series profiling friends of the author—and perhaps friends of yours.

I haven’t mentioned it until now, but one of my original conceptions for this blog was to spend each day writing about a different friend of mine who has brightened my life and deserves a little recognition. My theory was that while many people reading will never have met the person I’m profiling, everyone reading would probably be reminded of someone they do know, and might even be moved to get in touch with someone they’d forgotten about for a while.

After sharing the idea with a few people, though, I was ultimately convinced that I shouldn’t wed myself to such a restrictive theme. If I did, said my friends, I might quickly tire of the idea and lose motivation to continue writing. Worse still (but perhaps more likely), I might run out of friends by the end of the year!

Well, I did listen to these warnings, and I’m happy with the direction the blog has taken since January. But I’ve been continuing to look for a way to incorporate this initial idea into what I write, and I think that Saturdays might be the time to do it. Readership is comparatively slim over the weekends (part of the reason I’ve gone to simple questions on Sundays), so if there’s any possibility that folks won’t be able to relate, that risk is spread across the fewest number of people on Saturdays.

But before you assume that you wouldn’t be interested in reading about friends of mine you’ve never met, I’d encourage you to think again. I won’t be referring to anyone by name, and my hope is that the anonymity of the profiles will remind you of someone you know and love. We all take so little time to celebrate the people we love—especially those we see every day, but even those we don’t—and I wish we did more of it in our daily lives. Hopefully whatever you read here will encourage you to do just that. It’s an incredibly positive thing!

And even if the only person who reads these posts is the one I choose to discuss, the fact that one person’s day will be brightened by something I write is enough for me.

With that in mind, I ought to reserve my remaining words for today’s profile of a friend: the Giver.

She is one of my closest friends, and certainly deserves to inaugurate this series of posts. We met in the first weeks of high school, and have been inseparable ever since. Those were uncomfortable and unfamiliar days. No one from my grade school had ever gone to the high school I chose (indeed, few from my grade school went on to public school at all), and everything about it seemed daunting and new. Luckily, I was quick to find this good friend.

We talked on and off in our first-hour algebra class that freshman fall, but it wasn’t until the Homecoming dance that year that we really hit it off. I was there by myself (the story of my high school career, really), and her date (not a very nice guy) had found someone else with whom to distract himself for the evening. Someone who knew us both pushed us together and told us to go out into the courtyard to talk. She was sad, I was alone, and an instant friendship was formed.

Throughout high school, we always knew that we were there for each other. We rarely spent much time outside of school, but during school hours, we always had each others’ backs. I recall talking her through an unreasonable infatuation that had lasted for years, and she would return the favor a few years later when I was suffering from the same disease. Some of our most memorable experiences together include a road trip to New York City during spring of our junior year, my acting debut (and farewell) with her in Footloose that same year, and countless late-night coffee talks. Both of us spent a lot of time together figuring out who we were and what we hoped for from life.

Once we hit college and I would come home for the holidays, the tradition of coffee talks continued until we eventually graduated to more adult beverages, and the conversations followed suit. To this day, whenever I come home, we pick up right where we left off, and it feels like the time between our visits never existed at all.

That’s our story—and it’s not over by a long shot—but what do I love about this friend? I called her the Giver. What do I mean by that?

I’m not exaggerating when I say that this friend is one of the most selfless people I know. She’ll let me talk for hours about myself, even when there’s something she’s dying to tell me. She thinks of her choices and actions in terms of what she can do to make others happier, more comfortable, more fully alive. That’s true not only of our relationship, but also of the way she treats everyone around her.

She is an incredible actress, and when she’s on stage, that’s about giving, too. She doesn’t think about how well she’s doing, or audience approval, or even how she looks. She thinks about what she can give to the audience—what she can send them home with. She has a story to tell, a set of emotions to convey, an experience to deliver. She gives her performance as a gift, and the generosity of her spirit shines through whichever character she happens to portray. I recently flew home to see her in her final show, in which she played a loving mother who loses her son, and I was moved to tears. By so convincingly channelling a character she has never been in her own life, she was able to give me a feeling I had never experienced in mine.

There have been several times in my life when this friend has given me exactly what I needed most: a firm reminder of who I am, what ought to be important to me, and the mistakes I’m making in full view. The only one who can do that is a friend who cares more about what she can give to you than she does about what she can get back. If you’re lucky enough to have friends who do that for you, stop and thank them—they can be almost impossible to find.

In the course of our friendship, she has given me some of the most moving music I’ve ever heard, some of the most important advice I’ve ever received, and some of the most caring hugs I’ve ever felt. I know she won’t stop giving until the day she dies.

I’m incredibly proud of and impressed with her. She is a force of nature. She is the Giver. She is my friend.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Profile of a friend: The Giver

  1. Ruth Ryshke

    Incredible James, simply incredible.

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