Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.
I am one of those rare people who are over the age of 25 but do not drive.
When most people hear this, they make one of three assumptions. Either A)I've lost my licesnse because of too many tickets or accidents or other infractions, B)I have some medical issue that induces some kind of effect that won't allow me to drive, or C)I can't afford it. In reality, none of these assumptions are quite right- I have vision issues that make me nervous about the prospect of getting behind the wheel. Fortunately, I live in a place that has excellent public transportation that gets me to most of the daily places I need to be. And for the rest, I have wonderful friends who I feel very safe getting into the car with.
But sometimes I wish they would take more gas money.
Don't get me wrong, it's great to be driven around when it's needed. Actually, I'm even luckier than most, because they often offer to take me places so I don't have to ask. And many times, when I'm going out, I'm going with them anyway. My younger sister tells me she doesn't see the point in taking cash from me if she was going somewhere anyway. And even when I argue that if I drove, sometimes we'd take my wheels, all too often, she shakes her head and pushes my cash away.
It makes me wonder if we've all been raised to be too polite. We are taught to give and give and give even when we are already stretched, and while I am grateful for that lesson (and I will write about that at another time), we are also taught not to take. It is instilled in us that we are to be independent, stand alone creatures, who are able to create what we need all our own. We are told in the same breath that it's good to give away what we have, but it's underrated to collect.
We don't want to benefit from anyone else's excess. We don't want to receive what we so clearly should have already have. If someone else can create it, we can create it too. I get the sentiment.
But I think we take it too far.
Sometimes I feel like we have gotten to the point in society where we feel like receiving is going to strain our friendships. I think we are afraid that if we take something when someone who loves us offers it, then we are forever going to feel awkward around them. Or we don't want to put them out or feel like they've been strained in any way. It's a carefully constructed plot in which we make sure we are almost always, if not entirely always, the givers, not the other way around.
The problem is that giving has to be a two way street, because if it really is more blessed to give than receive, then someone has to be doing the receiving. When we give to one another, and I don't mean to charity, I mean to the people close and special to us, we are showing that we also want to put in the effort. We want to meet in the middle. We don't want to be lavished upon- we want the partnership that is supposed to accompany companionship.
I don't just mean stuff, either. Friendship is supposed to be based on exchanges. It's not much of a friendship if only one person does the sharing. We need to give a little of ourselves over to make something sturdy. We have to take turns being the comforter and the comforted when the chips are down. We need to sometimes initiate plans, and sometimes accept invitations. We must sometimes be the one giving bad news- and sometimes we must be ready to receive it. It's all about balances. Otherwise, only one person actually has a friend- it's one sided.
I am not implying that my friendships are one-sided, in case any of my friends are reading this. I am blessed to say that I have a lot of people in my life who engage in these back-and-forths. I love them and trust them and know that if I needed them, they would be there for me. And often I make sure that they know that I want to be there for them as well.
We stand together, trusting one another with the details of our lives, and I believe we have created really solid relationships- not one sided at all, but reciprocal. Built together. And built to last. These relationships have all begun somewhere, over a cup of coffee or some froyo or even just a few moments of conversations. But they all began with both parties working together.
Dear Friends, take gas money. Take the little offerings that the important people in your life give you. It's not about putting them out. It's about taking steps to ensure that your relationships are balanced. Don't take for granted any of the small exchanges, even in the beginning. The littlest gestures often give a big start to real friendships.