Ever notice how the people who stay friends aren't necessarily the ones with the most in common—but the ones who place a similar value on the friendship? A few reminders for how to be a friend through the various seasons of life:
Winter. When the storms hit, the key is to be there, and at the same time, give the other person physical and psychological space. Parker J. Palmer wrote in his book Let Your Life Speak, "One of the hardest things we must do sometimes is to be present to another person's pain without trying to 'fix' it, to simply stand respectfully at the edge of that person's mystery and misery." So true. Aim to be that kind of friend.
Spring. Share your friends' hopes and dreams. Share their excitement—and beware the friend who can't or doesn't share your excitement. Save your joy for those who can receive it and reflect it back to you. To quote an old saying, "A friend knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you've forgotten how it goes."
Summer. Friendships should be fun. Yes, they require effort, but they should not be work. For example, if you keep having to "talk about the friendship," consider scaling back to the point where this isn't necessary. (Can you tell I grew up with all brothers?) Let all your friendships find their own level, and appreciate them for what they are, rather than lamenting what they are not.
Fall. Hmm. Running out of analogies. All I can think of are high school and college football games, the arch of autumn trees on Forest Hill Avenue in my old neighborhood, and so many other simple joys, all of them made more meaningful by the incomparable gift of good friends.
One last reminder: Friends who are helpful in one season aren't always going to be helpful in all others. The old me would have felt threatened by this. But as one of my friends from college once said, "Life has a lot of 'accepting' in it."
Maybe acceptance in friendship is one of the best gifts we can give—and the secret to sustaining friendships over the course of a lifetime.