I had a long chat with an old friend and colleague this morning. We’d worked together years ago and spent a lot of time together, usually riding around in cars in lots of places in northern New York but also Michigan and Hollywood and New York City, to name other interesting locales.
I told him I missed our drives together. When you ride shotgun or walk alongside someone, you get to know them. And yourself. I have many other friends, besides the one I mentioned—Kirk, with whom I chatted this morning—whom I’ve grown close to over five decades. “Riding shotgun” takes many forms. First, sitting in a moving vehicle. But also walking, talking face-to-face, long chats on smartphones. You get the idea.
Walking alongside someone is one of the most intimate things one can do, outside of sex and breaking bread together. It is in these encounters that we deepen our friendships and make new discoveries, often about the other and always about ourselves.
Someone has said that “friendship is a sheltering tree.” How true. Cultivating friendships, versus merely making someone’s acquaintance, is an art and a science. The art part is knowing what and when to say something. The science is actually making the effort to be with another.
Walking with someone, often literally, is an apt metaphor for cultivating and maintaining relationships. It takes time, commitment beyond comfort, place and vulnerability. Being a friend is not easy. Sometimes being a friend means saying what will take you both outside of comfort. But it is necessary.
Some questions for reflection:
- Do you have people with whom you’ve walked that you’ve lost touch with? Call them. Chat them. Arrange a meal. Relationships, even difficult ones, are gold. Make the effort.
- Are you willing and able to meet your friends on level ground—i.e. understanding the human condition, its complexities, and yet willing to continue to love them and pour into them even though the status of many of your relationships are best described as “it’s complicated” or “it’s past?” Some friendships are low maintenance—you just pick up where you left off. Others require work and patience. Do the work and cut them at least as much slack as you cut yourself.
So, here’s to my shotgun partners. Kath, my wife of twenty-nine years, my children–Anna and Jordan, Emily and Joshua. And so many others–Larry, Sher, Robert, Don, Keith, Tony B, Jim P, Gunnar, Jim B, Dan G, Bobby P, Lynn A, Tim, Mark K, Peabo, Ron, Tom M, Ken, Jay, Greg, Top, Christian, Gary, Jim L, Tom, Kirk, Mike G, Christopher, Mooney, Doug O, DB, Mom, Mom P, Char, Dad and Paul, and my siblings. (Apologies to any I may have forgotten.)
The Walk (Michael Card)
The Chosen (Chaim Potok)