Do you know where your friends are? I don’t mean their physical locations, although that’s important too. I’m talking about their emotional locations, as in how are they really and truly doing. And I’m not talking social media friends, or Christmas card friends. I’m talking people I talk to weekly.
A couple months ago I thought I had a firm grasp on the emotional state of my friends. We check in regularly and encourage each other. We exchange funny memes, vent about our frustrations, and keep track of our lives. We support and encourage each other, and when time permits, we get together for coffee. We might even sneak in a dinner.
These people are my tribe—my good friends who would tell me if their lifeboat was sinking. Right?
My friend Samantha posts regularly on Facebook. Her posts make me laugh and comment. Her messages are encouraging and uplifting. Sure, she has issues-she . works three per time jobs and has a family. We text regularly and I confirm her life is fine. But lately her texts replies have been short and delayed, as if she’s got a lot on her plate and has a difficult time fitting everything into twenty-four hours. Move along, folks—there’s nothing to see here.
Awhile back I realized Samantha had gone a week without answering me. What in the world? I texted again, then a third time. How rude of my friend not to acknowledge me! My fourth text to Samantha was pretty rude, I’m ashamed to say.
And Samantha let me have it. In her short but powerful reply she threw up all the hurt and anger and sadness she’d endured for the last three months. The intro to her reply began, “Sorry I havent had time to respond. Life is trying to spit me out.”
Wow. As I read her text for the second time my heart broke. Maybe Samantha did a great job keeping me in the dark. Or maybe, if I’m being honest, I wanted to read hope and happiness into her text messages and her social media posts. Isn’t life so much easier if we can just focus on our own problems? Who has the energy to spend on someone who’s hurting, especially someone who’s covering up the truth?
I can’t tell you that I’m going to seek out my other friends and dig deeper to find out how they’re really doing. I’m not that good a person. But I can tell you
I’ve changed how I text. Yes, I still send silly memes. But I’ve stopped texting “How are you doing today?” Now I take the time to ask “How can I pray for you today?” And then I pray for my precious friend.
It’s made a huge difference. I’ve discovered another friend has started the new year with a car accident and realizing she owes the IRS $500 for 2023. Funny memes and “Hope you have a great day” wouldn’t have given me that information. And thank goodness for that.
Jann Goar Franklin graduated Russellville High School in 1989. You can reach her at email@example.com