On Friendship

As I write, it’s hard to turn my thoughts to anything other than the tragedy unfolding in Japan following last week’s 8.9 earthquake, and the ensuing tsunami crashing over that country’s northern territories.

Hard, too, to say anything that will make a difference. Oh, it’s important for Americans to provide aid, and to offer prayers of whatever sort for those citizens bereft of homes and loved ones. But one really can do nothing in the face of what to the Earth is a shrug of its mantle and a wrinkling of its surface waters.

Two weeks ago, when I was on the West Coast, I met a young Japanese woman who had come to visit a mutual friend for a few weeks. After I returned to Minneapolis, I received a note that said she had become homesick, and had insisted on flying back to Japan. I’ve not yet learned her status, though her mom, who also was coming for a visit, is still in California, separated from her child.

I have no solutions or anodyne thoughts on the tsunami tragedy, or the myriad others one sees daily in our nonstop media deluge. However, I do find invitations to “vote on these photos” despicable, as though the ruin of tens of thousands of lives is open to voyeurs to select the most wretched.

The tragedy has started me to thinking about the very reason I flew out to California in the first place: friendship, and the chance to see two friends of long standing. I spent 10 days with them, enjoying conversation and catch-up, Dim Sum, wine-tasting, and drives along the coast to photograph the waves.

I have no close family—my friends are my family. While our inner bonds are strong, the outer world—politics, the ravages of nature and of aging—will sever them in time, at least on this plane.

I remember, as I contemplate the current photos of this faraway devastation, that my friends share a concern for me (and I for them). They will call if they haven’t heard from me in a while, and continue to care even in times of hardship.

Despite the Facebook counts and competitions for longest list, relatively few throughout a given life are truly friends. It’s a good thing to keep that in mind day to day. Make a call, or an invitation to get together. Tell them you care.

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