Friendship. If you look up the word in a dictionary it gives you a trite sounding definition: friendly feeling or attitude; kindness or help given to someone. Do we really think about it when we say the word? Do we think about it outside of our own friends? What about strangers? Can we show them friendship though we have never seen them before? These are not, surprisingly, questions that I ask myself very often. In fact, I rarely think about the meaning of friends and friendship, taking for granted the loved ones around me and the people that I see on an everyday basis. I have a friendly feeling towards the parents of my son’s classmates. I say hi, I help out picking up the kids, picking up after the kids. But I know these people, I will see them over and over again. It is likely that at some point they will help me out, and by their friendly attitude I know the offer of friendship is there in our amiable chatter as we watch our kids play or walk our dogs. There is a quiet contract offered in our amiable small talk. But what happens when we move outside our comfortable lives?
I had an experience with friendship in an unlikely place a few weeks ago. I was in a Denny’s in Seattle. We had walked in and noticed that an older woman was sitting on a bench, thinking she was waiting to be seated, we took notice of her more because we were afraid that her waiting meant that the restaurant was full and we wouldn’t get a table (with a hungry cranky six year old and hungry cranky partner, this was not a good thing). The waitress, however, came right over and took us to a table in a nearly empty restaurant. She joked with my six year old and was genuinely nice. I know that good service is not a real surprise, but what did surprise me, is when the waitress went and talked to the old woman seated on the bench. The management wanted to get her out, but the waitress was trying to help the woman.
-Is there someone can call for you? No. –Can I get you a taxi? No. -Is there anywhere you could go for the night? No, and I couldn’t walk there because my feet hurt. –Do you need to see a doctor? Maybe, my feet do hurt. –Let me call someone for you. OK.
The young waitress called the ambulance, which arrived just as we were getting ready to leave. The old woman had severe frost bite on both of her feet. She had no one to take care of her and nowhere warm to go. And, had it not been for the kindness and help of the waitress, she may well have been sent out into the cold night, no one caring what happened to her after the doors had closed behind her.
That waitress, in my mind, embodied the true definition of friendship. Her attitude, her kindness, made her a friend to the old woman, and reminded those around her that reaching out to those around us, showing concern and compassion, are not a waste of time. It made me a little more thoughtful and a little quicker to kindness with those around