Being a Friend for Times Like These
These are hard times to be a genuine friend.
We’ve never had any face-to-face meetings. We met via LinkedIn.
Ours was a fellowship reminiscent of pen-pals of the previous two or three generations.
At school during my teen years, they taught us to cultivate and grow friendships with students from other countries. After gaining political independence, African countries adopted their pre-colonial rulers’ languages as their nations’ official languages.
Consequently, growing up, many of us gravitated toward our countries’ former colonial rulers as our first-choices for foreign friends.
Then, we didn’t know better. We only preoccupied ourselves with exploring the world — both far and near.
Through our pen pals, we improved our written English language. We also had previews of lives and cultures beyond our shores.
Forget all the wars and the simmering fights waiting to blow us up. All of us.
From a distance, you may look like my friend… ~Bette Midler
In those days, philately was a favorite hobby among many students. My stamp collections are now long gone, resting peacefully in oblivion. Thanks to our world of instant everything. But I still recall being enthralled by stamps from USA, USSR, China, and others. The most fascinating stamps were from the Jersey Islands in the United Kingdom.
Back then, radios and black and white TVs were rare in many households. The now omnipresent and “can’t live without” internet and social media were pipe dreams of science fiction.
Now the future is racing to overtake the present.
May all your dreams yet on their way come true.
So, dream on. For that’s the stuff our world rolls on. Dreams.
Fast forward to now. Only dwellers in stone-age enclaves and those who wish to be out of your reach stay disconnected.
On the flip side, despite our ever-increasing web of cyber connectedness, now, friendships tend to be thousands of miles wide and wafers thick.
Is that you?
Yes, that is us.
These are enchanting times. We all constantly click and join friends in expanding social media cycles. Yet, more people are becoming more lonely and insular than those who lived one or two generations ago.
Welcome to our hyper-connected, hyper-lonely planet.
“These are hard times for dreamers” and “These are hard times for lovers”, were recurring themes by crooners of yesteryears.
Today, well, may they add,
These are hard times for true friends.
Indeed, these are hard times for loyal friends.
Blessed are the unconnected.
For they will never be left high and dry.
Many of us in remote corners of the planet thought that the pandemic that started in China in December 2019 will never reach us.
But only a few months afterward, Covid-19 was engulfing our globe, spreading faster than any wildfire. Invincible and invisible death was hanging in the air.
Both the high, mighty, and the lowly were all gripped with fear.
Tell me, who wasn’t?
As the events of our nation, Nigeria’s EndSARS protests later proved, many Nigerian state governments had palliatives in storage against Covid-19 induced hardships being experienced by their citizens.
Sadly, these palliatives were released too little and too late.
Most Nigerian state governments only started issuing beggarly handouts to their own people after the fallouts of violent protests. The public outrage followed the government’s disastrous handling of the EndSARS protests in 2020.
Friends and families were supportive of one another. But for me, the first relief came from my Polish friend.
My aforementioned friend was among my first line of support at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. His support came just in time for my financially distressed family.
My Polish friend is now among the few in my tight cycle of loyal friends.
One of the first questions he asked me was, “Do you have friends?” I can’t now recollect what led to this straight-to-the-guts question.
Candid and unscripted, I replied, “I don’t have many friends. I do have a few friends. But any person I call my friend tends to become my friend for life.”
To verify if my children knew their dad very well, I asked them, “Do I have friends?” The question was hardly out of my mouth when my young lady and gentleman instantly replied, “Daddy, you don’t have friends.”
They were correct. Or almost.
Not yet done, I queried them further. “What of Mr. and Mrs. Barnabas (not their true name)? Are they not my friends?”
In unison, they again interjected, “Barnabas and his wife are not your friends. They are members of our family.”
They were spot-on.
My heart was at rest. Peaceful.
Neither Mr. nor Mrs. Barnabas was birth related to our family. But they are our closest friends and (sorry), family members.
True friendship has just two marks (all other marks are mere extensions.)
Not only are these hard times for dreamers (a la Amelie) and lovers (a la John Waite), these are even harder times to be a genuine friend.
These are tough times for everyone. Despite the ever-present communication channels, many of our friends will always be unavoidably out of touch and beyond our reach.
Surely, many of us have old pals who have come true for us in many pleasant and life-transforming surprises. They did all that despite their own pressing burdens.
To them, our Gracias will never be enough.
So, do not take my musings, as a manifesto for guilt-tripping or gaslighting old but now compulsorily far-away friends.
In our world of today, people count their friends by hundreds, thousands, or millions (of clicks) on the internet and social media.
Unfortunately, most of those you call “my friends” don’t always feel the same way about you as you feel about them.
Many of us idolize those for whom our existence count for nothing. Except, of course, as a means for amassing likes and clicks in lieu of garnering Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok’s cash-ins.
So, when those you call your friends stop answering your calls, deliberately avoid calling you back, start imposing social media blackouts on you, know for sure that they want you out of their lives.
They might have been or never have been true friends in the past. But now, all you are holding on to are cold ashes and smoking embers of memories.
My friend, respect yourself.
It’s time to move on.
You just may end up better.
And you’ll be okay.
Such was my experience when I searched for and followed a much younger social media uninfluencer some months back.
Because many young people followed him, he had no scruples being derisive of his many admirers. Unable to take it any longer, I inoffensively called him out on this character flaw. His reply was curt and disrespectful. I quickly retrace my steps, unfollowed, and blocked him.
Many of those you ogle over in the cyberspace will spare no time kicking dust into your face at the least opportunity.
Keep yourself from idols (any). Many a cyber-idol never love back those who idolize them. It is the way of idols.
So, how do you define a true friend? These tips are in your heart. So, follow your heart.
A true friend is someone you can be real with — Acceptance.
True friends follow up their talks in practical ways — Dependable.
A true friend will always have your back — Loyalty.
True friends show up when your world collapses — Trustworthy.
A true friend will tell you the truth — Accountability.
Go ahead, add yours to the above. The list goes on like scores of wagons on scores of trains.
Indeed, these are hard times. But for me, a genuine friend for our times will (1) answer your calls, return your missed calls, answer your social media chats, and (2) follow through with appropriate actions.
Those are the (not so) new rules. All the others are just extensions.
A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
~Holy Bible; Proverb 17:17
What type of friend are you?
Thank you for reading.
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