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Have we become lazy friends?

Posted in Life & Love

uganda-people04Through a mutual friend, I got wind that someone who is more than just an acquaintance, was navigating treacherous divorce waters, and was in danger of losing her house in the very near future. I sent her a text, letting her know I was deeply  sorry for her troubles and if there was ever anything I could do for her, to just ask me.

There it was, that cliché sentence we have all used countless times for lack of anything better: “if there is anything I can help with, please let me know”. As if someone who just lost a spouse, a child, a job, her health is really going to pick up the phone and call us for baby-sitting or cooking duties. We might have felt like we did the right thing in offering hep, but we did nothing more than appease our conscience.

Could it be that too much technology at our fingertips has turned us into lazy friends? Texting, dropping birthday messages on Facebook walls, sending a quick email have all replaced the more personal touches of picking up the phone, extending an invitation or sending a card. If technology has facilitated connections with our fourth grade long-lost friend, it has also introduced facelessness into some of our closest relationships.

While mulling over the futility of my text, I suddenly realized the importance of all those casseroles that tend to appear in the wake of someone’s death: the ones I always thought pointless when I was a child, a spoiled little brat uncomfortable with eating food someone other than my mother had prepared.

horse helping dogFor help to be meaningful, it really has to be tangible. When something terrible happens, we veer towards the thinking that our friend or family member only wants to retreat under the cloak of their grief and shut the world outside. Partly, that is true, but lending a hand in helping another strike the right balance between retreat and normality might be more useful than respecting their solitude.

It’s always hard to ask for help, proud and independent beings we have all become, even under the best of circumstances. When disaster strikes and we can’t think of anything else than our woes, asking for help often is the last thing on our mind. In the wake of a loss, focussing on cleaning the house, grooming the dogs or making dinner for the children can become insurmountable tasks – while going through the motions of trying to keep ourselves and our immediate dependents afloat, I have no doubt it would be easier if a friendly face showed up, uninvited, to volunteer some of those duties.

A few years ago, at the apex of a crisis, sofagirl suggested I go visit her on the other side of the world. I teetered, it all seemed too difficult to organize. “I will help you pay for some of the ticket” she offered, sensing my hesitation. Two weeks later I was on a plane. Spending ten (hazy) days in Cape Town did not erase my problems – they were all there, dutifully welcoming me when I disembarked at LAX – but taking myself out of my head for a little while, eating food prepared by the sofa family and being able to discuss my issues face to face with my best friend tangibly nudged me on the way to recovery.

404674_10150647049415850_506470849_11208315_863731189_nAbout a week after I sent the text to my friend, I called her up. She was more forthcoming about her situation than I expected. I listened, commiserated and then I suggested I help her pack her house when the time comes. “Really, you would do that?” she seemed taken aback.
“Yes, I moved so many times I am as good as a professional packer. We’ll eat take-out, have a beer and it will go faster” I replied.
“I really would like that” was her answer.

My help won’t ease her sorrow and it will only ease a hassle – we all have to walk the road to recovery pretty much alone but I have no doubt a friendly face at some of the pit-stops is more appreciated, and more useful, than a faceless text.

All images found in the public domain

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13 Comments

  1. camparigirl
    camparigirl

    I vowed never to send a birthday message through Facebook ever again – even if it’s someone very far away, a personal email is just more…personal.

    February 19, 2015
    |Reply
  2. Gold star for the reach out. I agree, technology that was supposed to ‘bring us closer together’ seems to have made us more anonymous than ever. 🙁

    February 18, 2015
    |Reply
  3. This post has come just at the right time for me. I still am not sure what I am going to do. A friend of mine has been going through some hard times and I heard today a little bit of how bad things have got. She is proud and independent and prefers to offer help and hospitality rather than receive it. In fact she was planning to ring me. And then she didn’t. And i didn’t think anything of it-thought she must be busy and I was busy too. I’ll get in touch I thought when I have a moment. I nearly didn’t have that moment. She went missing.And they found her house abandoned and her two lovely dogs had died. Her life’s joy. I heard through a third party she has been found. She is miles away. Yet I need to see her. I know how grief stricken, how heart broken she will be. I feel so sad for her. Wish me luck in finding a way to get back in touch.
    Julia

    February 17, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Oh Julia, this is the saddest story….breaks my heart and I don’t know either of you.
      I hope you do get to see your friend again soon. Just to listen or be there, if that is all she needs. Wishing you all the luck you need.

      February 17, 2015
      |Reply
  4. That was a nice gesture. Helping someone pack, when there are undoubtedly many memories associated with the object themselves, might be just the thing to help a friend not break down during the process.

    I fear I might be one of those ‘texting people,’ because I’m always afraid I might be prying or barging in someone’s privacy. I guess I should just bite the bullet next time and let the other person decide if I’m prying, huh?

    February 17, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I was always afraid of that too. I am actually a very private person myself. But then I decided it was better risking being nosy as I realized how I wouldn’t ask for help in times of crisis. I think a friend would eventually forgive and forget your pushiness.

      February 17, 2015
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  5. This was right on target. Been there myself … on both sides.

    February 17, 2015
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    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Right. I think I changed my ways after being there myself.

      February 17, 2015
      |Reply
  6. “Could it be that too much technology at our fingertips has turned us into lazy friends?”
    – I have to admit that even before technology, there was always work. Work, commuting, the weather, etc. That’s a question I don’t think I’ve asked myself enough. Being there in spirit is wonderful and comforting, but sometimes not enough.

    February 17, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I hear you. There are always a million things that come in the way of what is not our immediate circle. As I get older, I find it easier to make time in a way that seemed impossible even 10 years ago.

      February 17, 2015
      |Reply
      • Older and wiser yes. The trouble for me is not to use age as a crutch or yet another obstacle. My husband and I have a mantra: “We are still young.” It’s what gets us out of the house, gets us to drive an hour to see family, or a friend. But yes, to be more intentional takes more than good intentions.

        February 17, 2015
        |Reply
  7. I think just having a friend there to help with the busy work, will help her to not only take her mind off the overwhelming situation of grief and moving, but gives her the opportunity to be with a friend, and that cannot be discounted. Good for you for taking that extra step!

    February 16, 2015
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I agree that in the middle of a difficult situation, or grief, it’s important to take a time out and be just “normal”.

      February 17, 2015
      |Reply

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