Characteristics of a Beautiful Friend

To have a friend is a beautiful thing. To be a friend is as beautiful, if not more so, as it makes the rest of life, no matter how difficult, pretty beautiful, too.

Years ago when I taught second grade, we spent the month of February celebrating friendship. One of my favorite books to read with the class was Judith Viorst’s Rosie and Michael, the story of two friends who take turns narrating what makes their friendship so special.

What they describe are the characteristics of any beautiful relationship, whether it is between two friends, two loves, a parent and a child, or siblings. Here, illustrated by the words of Rosie and Michael, are the characteristics of any beautiful relationship:

* Friends accept each other as they are. “She likes me when I’m dopey and not just when I’m smart.” “I worry a lot about werewolves, and he understands.”

* They rely on each other in times of trouble. “When my parakeet died, I called Rosie.” “When my bike got swiped, I called Michael.”

* Friends are loyal to one another. “It wouldn’t matter if two billion people said she robbed a bank, if Rosie told me she didn’t, I’d believe her.”

* They are trustworthy, too. “If Michael told me a secret and people clonked me and bopped me, I wouldn’t tell what Michael’s secret was.”

* And if necessary, friends are forgiving. “And then if people said ‘Speak up or we’ll throw you in this quicksand,’ Rosie would forgive me for telling her secret.”

* Even if they disagree, friends can still stay friends. “Just because I call him a banana head, doesn’t mean that Michael’s not my friend.”

* Friends support each other, too. “Sometimes I get on the diving board and deicde that I’ve changed my mind. but Rosie wouldn’t laugh. She’s my friend.”

* Friends are honest with each other. “Michael is my friend. When he honest and truly wanted to know if his feet were smelling stinky, I honestly told him.”

* And they always have your back. “She’d hunt for me if kidnappers stole me away. And if I was never found again, she could have my Instamatic. She is my friend.”

* Special friends are the ones we think of first, last and all the times in between. “I’d never move to China without Michael.” ” I’d give her my last piece of chalk.”

To have a friend, to be a friend is one of the best gifts life has to offer. Now is a wonderful time to celebrate and thank those special friends that make our lives beautiful. Thank you…you know who you are.

Can a Resolution Be Just to Persevere? Maybe That’s Enough

A show of hands from those of you who have already fallen off the wagon of your New Year’s resolution? Right, I thought so. This post, now two weeks past the date I had set on my schedule – one of my resolutions – is living proof of why my hand is raised high, too.

By mid-February, the newness of a January resolution has likely diminished quite a bit, just as the excitement over winter’s snow has worn thin. With each new snowfall, the wonder of it is replaced by the weariness of having to clear the driveway yet again.

In the same way, the excitement and resolve with which we all begin a new year can become frayed as the hard work of keeping a promise to yourself sets in.

By now, I am over winter and ready for spring, but I recognize that no matter the time of year, there are often “winters” of the spirit, too. There are times when we are weary, overwhelmed with the minutiae of our days and weeks, and just feeling uninspired by life. The sky is cold and gray, and so are we.

This would be a moment to say something along the lines of “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” True enough, but we all know that it isn’t always that easy. Maybe the tough going we face is related to poor health, grief, financial concerns, depression, or the big life questions to which there are no easy answers, and no readily available bootstraps with which we can pull ourselves back to our feet.

It is during these winters of the spirit, that maybe a gentler approach is needed to achieving the goals set with so much enthusiasm in January.

John D. Rockefeller once said, “I do not think that there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.”

To persevere through the winter in anticipation of the spring, to not give up, but to do your best to stick with it, even if ‘it’ – whatever ‘it’ is – falls short of what you hoped to accomplish – that is the real accomplishment.

So maybe this post is late, but here it is, and maybe that is enough. Enough to do, enough to expect, enough to carry me through until the new habits are formed, and springtime arrives in about a month or so.

Five Lessons Learned in the Garden

Last year I moved into a new home.  As part of making it my own, I had several new flowerbeds dug, and this spring has been the time to fill them… a job I recently finished.  While I spent a lot of time and money on my garden this spring, it has all been worth it.  I love taking care of the plants, keeping the beds neat and weed-free, and trying to orchestrate the effects of which plants bloom when and where.  In turn, I am rewarded with a beautiful palette of colorful blooms (I hope) from spring into fall, and with the numerous lessons gardening teaches each every day.  Here are five I will take with me this growing season:

  • “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”  –Audrey Hepburn     So often we don’t readily see or recognize the fruits of our efforts.  Gardening teaches us to be patient, to wait for the signs of new growth as plants take root and begin to thrive.  We learn that in time, our patience and care will pay off bountifully.
  • “The grass is greenest where you water it.” — Neil Barringham     Pay attention to your garden and care for it regularly, and it will grow lush and beautiful… as will your relationships and every area of your life.  It is as simple and as difficult as that.
  • “If you don’t like the way things are, change it!  You are not a tree.”   –Jim Rohn  One thing I’ve learned from gardening is that nothing is permanent.  Plants, like people  can be moved to a place that’s best for them and where they will thrive.  A garden is a great place to experiment and take risks, and so is life.
  • “Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them.”  –A.A. Milne    I tend to yank out plants I don’t recognize, but every so often I am surprised by something that I think is a weed, but is kind of pretty in a way, and I let it go, only to find out later that it is a flower I just didn’t know.  The problems we have often seem like weeds because we don’t recognize them as valuable, and we want to get rid of them as quickly as possible.  It is only later later that we realize just what they’ve contributed to our lives.
  • “Bloom where you are planted.”  — St. Francis de Sales   I am always amazed at how tenacious some plants are, defying all odds and growing from a crack in the sidewalk, under the shade of huge tree, or in the rockiest soil.  What an example for us… to take what we have been given and grow with it!