Does a “true” friend tell you there is pepper in your teeth?

I have been thinking about this blog for weeks and how I would give it the justice it deserves. Carefully thought, reflecting enough heart and soul and character so others can appreciate the inspiration of my experience. What are the ingredients that form a friendship? Is it a like experience or similar interests? Is it a random unexplained connection or a random bond?

This story is about friendship. A friendship with depth, not the type of facile friendship of acquaintance. A friendship of foundation, commitment, inspiration and jest. 

A friendship seems to be a foundation built upon mutual respect for each individuals contributions to the human relationship. It could be a fascination with character of the individual and all the attributes brought to the affiliation. When this magnetic connection draws the individuals together the foundation advances and may becomes even stronger.  Its energy feeds the foundation sprouting in new complex directions ensuring it continues to be relevant.

This story is about my friend Jen.

I met Jen when I was working at the County. Jen was a case manager attending a clinical meeting to seek affirmation of her clinical approach with her patient. Her presence filled the room. Her very energy commanded others to be drawn her presentation. The passion in her voice and commitment to her patient was colossal. While there to seek the expertise of others; as Jen presentation unfolded, so did the direction and answer she was seeking from others in the room. The answers she was seeking spilled out of her soul and commitment to the very people she was called to serve. The room was full of social work types simply nodding their heads in affirmation that Jen did not need their advice, but rather she was the expert in the room.

I turned to my colleague Judy, and said; “She needs to be on our team, individuals like Jen will be the next generation of leadership in our community.”

Jen joined our team a few months later, for one of the shortest employments in the history of the County. We became teammates quickly with our energy becoming contagious. Our friendship grew as we worked side-by-side fighting the cause until a very unfortunate event occurred. We learned that Jen was to be bumped by another staff at the County as the child welfare system collapsed and was taken over by the State. Jen would exit our team as fast as she came in.

Now, one might think in the midst of this personal crisis of loosing a new job and becoming unemployed; there would be an effect on a newly formed friendship as Jen and I? In fact, most friendships could not withstand this type of contention. Well, not this friendship. Jen said, well everything happens for a reason John, this changes nothing about our friendship, we will always be friends. The foundation has to be authentic in order for the friendship to withstand this test of challenge, right?

There is no secrete to my life the past several years, frankly it was quite public. Most of you know that story, that will someday be a subject of a future blog. Its relevance to friendship centers in the concept of commitment. I consider myself a very lucky man. I was surrounded by loving and supportive family, friends and a community who rallied during this public time to extend support during a time in life that was in genocide. While many individuals stayed with me during this time, Jen was connected. Studying every event, reaching out to me day and night to check on my well-being. When others could not withstand anymore, Jen was there asking, “How are you friend? She would offer hope by explaining that “this to shall pass.” Honestly, she was my therapist, assessing my thoughts, feelings and working with me to plan my future. This alliance was a commitment in a friendship that I had never experienced before.  The semblance of commitment seems to come naturally for Jen, yet I know it took great strength to participate in my journey. The commitment to our friendship must be authentic in order to withstand this test, right?

Now, if you know Jen then I need not say more. She brings to everything she does a powerhouse of inspiration that is infectious. Definitely a skill but more a talent. In any situation, Jen is able to turn the situation around and change a pile of shit into a situation that provides hope and inspiration. She challenges you to participate in the future. I have watched Jen take some of the most hopeless situations and turn them into successful opportunity. This is the same talent she brings to a friendship. When life is challenging, Jen discovers a way to change the course of the journey. She does this in her life and helps friends find new purpose and direction for their own life. Jen has taught me to value my personal journey and take time to live my life.  While giving to others provides great meaning in life, giving and not living life yourself can become parlous. Jen has taught me to give as much to myself as I do for others. Temanos is a challenge from Jen, which has proven to be a true gift. The inspiration brought to our friendship must be authentic in order have impacted my life so greatly, right?

The best attribute of my friendship with Jen is that it must be in jest. “If it not fun, then why do it?” We have learned that our experience cannot be too serious, that a brick in the foundation must be to have fun along the journey. When our friendship becomes to serious, to business, it changes the quality of the passage. Business happens in meetings never over beers, lunch or dinner ever again. Lesson learned. The occasion has stories, experiences, dreams, witticism and fun. This friendship must be authentic or it would not be so much fun, right?

Does a “true” friend tell you there is pepper in your teeth?

The answer is yes. A true friend will not only tell you, but coach you as you work to get the pepper out with a toothpick. This friend shares the experience each step of the complicated journey.

As Jen and my friendship continues, the hope is that I can be as significant of a friend to Jen’s as she has been to me. I know this friend will withstand the test of time.

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