I Need A Friend

My thoughts on how to find one

The most incredible Facebook community I am part of is “I’ll Help — Billings.” It began with the intention of helping people like me, who didn’t know (or didn’t want to know) how many children are part of the child welfare system in Yellowstone County. We started the page to help those children and their caregivers, but also as a place to show others what it’s like to live on the edge.

The idea was simple. Those who are in need place a simple request and anyone who is a follower can say, “I’ll help,” and answer the need. In a matter of weeks, the page changed from a place to help foster children into a place where anyone with an emergent need can reach out for assistance.

Imagine, more than 8,000 people requesting and filling the most basic human needs — every single day. To say it fills my heart is to understate the emotion I feel each time I see the caring, powerful interactions on this page. Sure, sometimes there are stingy givers and sticky takers, but those folks are quickly quieted by grace, kindness and out-and-out miracles.

I’m telling you this because today I was thinking about what a miracle it is to have true friends. People who you can call at 3 a.m. or ask for a ride to the airport or, like my best friends, neglect for months and start up again as if no more than five minutes had passed. These friends are, in my humble opinion, miracles. We don’t always find them when we’re looking for them but just as miracles do, they show up, cut our sorrows in half and fill us with joy. I have a few friends like that, but not enough who fall into this description. I wondered if it’s just me, a failing of personality or perhaps hygiene or if it’s just the way it is. Maybe I should accept the fact and count myself lucky to have any friends at all.

I decided to research the topic — the entire concept of friendship — when a post popped up on the I’ll Help page. It said, simply, “My heads spinning, I hate being alone. I need a friend.” 

Now, if that doesn’t hit you right in the feels, I don’t know what will. I know I’ve had moments like that, moments when I just needed someone, anyone, to tell me it’s all going to be OK. To make me laugh when all I wanted to do was cry. Someone to say, you matter to me. I, however, was never brave enough to post that reality on social media. The fact that this person created the post makes me think she would be the best kind of friend, someone brave, honest and caring. There were — and this is what makes me love the page — 16 comments. Sixteen people who said, in one way or another, I hear you, I see you, I care for you. Sixteen. Within minutes. Now, that surely is a miracle. 

So, is having a friend a bit of a miracle? I’d like to argue that often it is. You are put in the right spot, at the right time, to look at someone and say, “I’ll be your people, if you’ll be mine.” And you, amazingly, fall into a friendship. You have shared interests, tastes, socio-economic standards, goals, dreams, or humor. In my book “Quiet Leadership,” I write about a friend like this — a man so completely different from me that we would seldom cross paths, but a person who stepped into my heart in a way that can only be a miracle. (The chapter is titled “Hate and Discontent,” if you would like to read it.)

But, what if you need those people, but you don’t have those people? What then? How do you find and keep friends? I, and this could be part of the problem, am pretty certain there are more potential friends on this earth than I will ever be able to spend time with, so I am a bit cavalier about spending time with one person and then the next. That, according to science, is not the way to make true and lasting friends. Research shows that it takes a minimum of 40 hours, spent in the company of another, to be casual friends. This is more than an acquaintance, but not someone you would call at 3 a.m.

Forty Hours. An entire work week. And for them to be a friend but still not a 3 a.m. call. An “I’m out of gas” friend takes 80-100 hours of time spent together, looking in the same direction. It takes a minimum of 200 hours to be good friends, and 400 hours, with both highs and lows of life thrown in, to become best friends. 

Ten work weeks.

I would argue few of us have that time to devote to the cause of friendship. I would also argue that there are several ways to speed up the process. You can speed it up by sharing challenges, experiences and secrets. Any time you go through stress, be it for fun, or one of life’s great challenges, your capacity to bond is increased. Your time to become good friends is decreased. I capitalize on this fact in my team building experience and have seen it happen in other spaces too. 

The best way, as they say, to find a friend is to be a friend. 

The next best way is to button up your courage and step into unfamiliar territory with others who think, or act in a way that appeals to you. Join a club (I’m a Rotarian, and so are most of my friends). Take a class (Zest recently offered a class on Mole’ creation, I didn’t even know I needed to know how to make Mole’ until a casual friend told me how wonderful the class was). Solve a problem for someone (I’ll Help members often become friends). Say “yes” when invited to an event at Better Together. Spend the evening with a group of supportive adventurers participating in a Go Unite event, or, if you have an entrepreneurial bent, join Rock 31, where everyone is focused on helping one another succeed.

At Rock 31 I was reintroduced to Kevin Scharf, who is building a wild and cool social media app called Converge. In the Converge app, you join groups that interest you, meet up for fun and powerful experiences and then post your smiling pictures for the community to see. It’s an exciting way to make friends because everyone has the power to invite others who have already said I like yoga, or mountain biking, or knitting Turkish socks (that really is a group) to come along for the fun.

And, that, my friend, is how to make a friend. Invite someone to come along for the fun, or the learning experience or even just a moment to sit quietly and contemplate the stars together. Invite someone along and say yes if they are inviting you. Then do it again and again and again, for a few hundred hours, which is really not that much time in the grand scheme of life. And, if the moment is right, please go to the I’ll Help page, and tell someone, who is probably at their lowest moment, that you hear them, and that you care. You might not be their best friend but you may be their only friend at that critical moment and that is an important role to fill.           


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