Dedicated to our dear friend Annette Salinger who left this realm earlier this week and now I’m sure is resting peacefully in Messiah’s arms.

“Friends” – Of course you remember the iconic sitcom of that name about a group of guys and gals living in close proximity and their many interactions that kept us engaged. Most of us have probably had those types of friendships from our college days and youth, those relationships often of the type that last for years with little nurturing, held together by the many memories of meaningful life experiences together.

Friends of our childhood and youth are often people we wouldn’t pick as friends now but were perfect at the time. My best friend from kindergarten and I are still “best friends”. We can speak just a few times a year and it’s like we’ve been together all year. And yet we are very different in many ways now and have less in common. What holds us together are the common memories. We went through a lot during those many years growing up together.

In our child raising years our friends tend to be the parents of our children’s friends. You learn a lot about each other during hours of play groups, soccer games, school events. Sometimes one or two may be lasting, but often, as the children go off to college so too do those relationships tend to drift away, representing a time of commonality together but typically not one with deep roots.

Work friends, common activity friends, colleagues, a whole array of “friends” make up our adult lives. And I will not even touch social media and its misguided concept of “friends”. At least it seems a different terminology should be used. The truth is the smaller the number of friends we have, usually the more meaningful they are.

When we moved to Maine 8 years ago I was excited that our immediate neighbors on several sides seemed to have so much in common with us. What a blessing to be able to move into a new community and develop friendships with other imports entering retirement years and yet young at heart and active. All true. Yet as the years have unfolded, we like our neighbors, but they are not friends in a meaningful way. Living nearby does not create enough of a continuity of experience to build a strong foundation, especially with Sid and I coming to MA most weekends! And they are quick to judge. If Sid is a little too talkative or I’m too much of a softy toward the local neighbor they don’t like, well that’s it for us. Sadly, in superficial friendships with less frequent interactions, the snapshot judgment will cause a label to be applied, rightly or wrongly, and the early impressions will determine if a friendship can exist. In our case, we’re all pleasant to each other but nothing deep.

We recently had long term friends up for the holiday weekend, the husband of one of the couples now 8 months sober after 10 years of alcohol addiction. We were used to the terms of our friendship during those prior years, but now, we were discovering a new relationship with him as a very different person. It’s not that typical for people to change. But in this case, we all love the new person, or rather, the real person inside masked by years of destructive addictive behavior. Rather than sticking with the image of the guy we knew, we had the ability to see the healed person he is becoming. This fresh view opened up the possibility for a friendship way deeper than the one built on his façade through drinking that had hidden the beautiful person he was inside. Similarly, when a person through therapy is willing to work on his or her issues and emerge closer to the person HaShem created, how much easier for others to be in a close relationship with that person’s truer self.

Our truer selves. The beings HaShem created us to be. As we strive to be closer to our Abba, to walk in the model of Yeshua, our truer selves are revealed. Perhaps that commonality of motivation is the reason that I find my most meaningful friendships at this stage of life are with people within my Ruach community. All of us have our shmagosh (Yiddish for “stuff”), but as my Ruach community plays and prays together, as we put Him front and center, recognize our frailties and work on them, have brothers and sisters in Yeshua to help us, there develops a deep bond – of friendship. With distance and busy lives as obstacles, we nevertheless feel like we carry our Ruach family in our hearts. A sadness to one brings sadness to each of us. Losing our dear Annette feels like the death of a family member for that’s how close we feel to each other. Joy is felt for each and by us as we kvell together over one in our community who has nachas/joy. It is as close to a judgment free zone as one can find in an imperfect world, each person’s quirkiness often making him or her all the more lovable. There is a feeling you can be yourself, be vulnerable, for we recognize all are flawed and know we are trying our best. Perhaps Annette, with her childlike and joyful nature who only needed a good puppy story to make her smile, was the best example of a true friend. Having friends at Ruach is a blessing not to be taken for granted. It is exceptional. And as life shows, fleeting. . .

Yet the friendship that reigns over all is the closeness we feel with Yeshua. To have literally the feeling that you can talk over anything with Him, that He is riding in the car with you, sitting next to you, never leaving you, understanding everything you’re feeling without your even saying a word, always there for you, helping you anytime you need help, loving you no matter what.

Now that’s a friend, right Annette? 😊

Shabbat shalom.

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