What is a Friend?
My dad’s definition of a friend is someone with whom you can pick up a conversation wherever and whenever you left it. Even years later. It’s a simple test that proves itself. Try it. Finding an easy comfort with people isn’t all that easy. And as we get older, for some reason it gets harder to make new friends. Often it seems that people have decided they don’t need more acquaintances, or they’re too busy, or life gets in the way, and they’ll turn away from a potential new friendship rather than commit.
In the cruising community, shared experiences and understanding of the challenges, fears, and on-going will to survive, inculcates an instantaneous appreciation of your kindred vagabonds. And no matter who they are, they should be worthy of at least some attention. In other words, empathy, that essential ingredient in fostering friendship (because after all, being friends isn’t about you, is it?), is here in spades.
That goes for armchair, wannabe, aspirational, and recovering cruisers, too. I’m lucky. Mark and I have been friends for years. He’s a cruiser. But I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure that he and Carol would get on. You see, Carol is a snowflake liberal and Mark is a crypto-fascist – at least they are online. I love them both. Thus, despite my assurances to Carol that what you read on Facebook isn’t any more representative of someone than an ad in an online dating site, it wasn’t clear that Mark and Carol would find common ground.
What Me Worry?
I wasn’t particularly worried. Not really. Besides, I’ve always figured it’s okay if my bff’s don’t get along with each other, in part because it happens so rarely. (But, we all find it a little baffling when our friends don’t like each other, right?). Besides, Mark is married to Tammy – thank God! More importantly, Tammy is her own woman and continuously inspires Mark with all the cool stuff that she does, like saving turtles and diving in the giant tanks at the Boston Aquarium.
Nevertheless, it was with a little nervousness that I introduced my wife to my buddy and then stood back to see what would happen. Phfff! What was I thinking? Take two, no three, or even four, generous people and put them in a room and they’ll quickly find ways of solving the problems of the world. And honestly, we couldn’t have gotten to the Bahamas if it weren’t for Mark and Tammy’s help. They’ve taken in our mail, loaned us a car, helped refinish our table, babysat our old dinghy, and been supportive in ways that cruisers are with each other. In the end, Carol fell in love with the tall man with a bad back and a big heart.
The unwritten rule of sailing is ‘pay it forward.’ It’s a version of the golden rule (the one about doing unto others as you would have them do unto you). Accept help willingly and offer help generously. There’s more than one global religion that’s made a business out of that idea. Thanks to our long stay in Martin and St. Lucie counties, we have a large debt to pay forward. I’m doing what I can. For example, during my recent trip back to the USA, I picked up a couple of hose connectors for a fellow cruiser with a bum water maker, and offered our spare starter motor to our next-door neighbor in Bimini (he declined: it was much too big for his small Yanmar).
Things break in life. Friends are the glue that help keep things together. So love your friends unconditionally. And to paraphrase Garrison Keillor, nurture your friendships by ‘being well, doing good work, and staying in touch.’