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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Where Everybody Knows Your Name...

Moving to a small town where everyone knows each other was a lot like switching schools in tenth grade.  It takes a long time to squirm your way in and make new friends.  It took a while, but I think I have found what I was looking for.  I hang out with a great bunch of people that truly care about each other.  Yet I find that I still hold myself at a safe distance. 

I was hurt in the past by friends who should have been there when I really needed them, yet they weren't.  I have not yet allowed myself to let others in easily.  I know I am not alone, we all carry our own pain inside.    I realize that I cannot place other peoples' actions or inactions on the friends I have now, but I am unsure how to stop the cycle.

I recognize that I have a wall up, and I try to work on it.  My new friends are unlike those I have ever had before. I watch them become each others' support system, rather than each others' critic.  I watch them help each other with no expectation of reciprocation.   I watch them treat their friends' families as their own.  I am learning what it is like to have true friends, with each passing day that I spend with them.  But I still find myself keeping a distance.

I was recently informed that a local woman was in one of our downtown establishments and was saying unkind things about me.  I know what you are thinking,  "Lisa is pretty vocal about animal welfare issues, and she should expect this type of criticism from those that oppose her."  The ironic thing is that I really do not know this woman very well at all.  Her opinion of me is not based on my animal advocacy.  She is not a pet owner, and not in the pet industry.

The truth is that this tale is not about this woman or her words.  I don't know exactly what she said or why she said it, and  I really do not care...much.

What I do care about is that one of my new friends happened to be standing next to her during her criticism and overheard what she was saying.  My friend did not ignore her words. My friend did not walk away. My friend did not scream at her in an infantile manner.  She turned to this woman, and proudly and politely stated that she and I were close friends and adamantly put an end to her criticism of me.

My friend did not run to me to tell the story in order to seek my approval.  She did not seek my thanks for doing what she felt was appropriate for the situation.  She did not stand up for me to make herself feel better, or look good.  She stood up for me for MY sake.  She stood up for me in support of OUR friendship.  These altruistic actions make her an even greater friend in my heart. 

I am not sure how I would have handled the situation.  (The infantile screaming may fit the bill.)  I am fairly certain that she handled it in a much more mature manner than I would have.

I now know what it is like to have a support system.  I have been missing that since my Mom passed away. 
I hope my new friends know how much I care for and admire them, each for their own individual and distinctive personalities. 

I hope I am strong enough to stand up for them if it is ever required of me. 

I hope as I continue to learn, and continue to make mistakes, that my new friends find it in their hearts to forgive me. 

I hope that I can  learn to accept, forgive, support, and love unconditionally. 

I hope I continue to learn what it is like have a true friend and to be a true friend. 

I hope I allow myself to accept the benefits of true friendship, and to reciprocate those benefits.

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1 comment:

Tammy Hartwig said...

Lisa ~

I was born and raised in a small town and at age 49, I never left. However, when my parents moved here in 1953 they have shared how difficult it was even back then, to become "one of them". It took years to be considered a "local". However, there were those few people who took them under their wing and my Dad is good friends with those who have not passed to this day (my Mom has since passed) and along the way did make several other GOOD friends.

Welcome to the world of small towns as well as, the world of real friends. Due to this new friends reaction, I trust you will have the courage and strength to do the same should it ever be necessary. I am also hoping that you will open your heart to what seems to be a great group of friends; perhaps you start with this one who stood up for you simply on principle? Please give it a try.

I raised 2 disabled children and watched them suffer their whole lives as well as being outcasts. Obviously they were born and raised here too but, they were "different". What I discovered however, is that having even one GOOD friend made all the difference in the world! I believe this could be true of you as well.

Of course I was hurt by those I thought were my friends as well. It is likely that everyone has at some point in their lives. However, several of my childhood friends are real friends to this day. I have also made several new good friends along the way...some of them, newcomers.

It IS difficult to fit in when joining a small town but these women have accepted you for who you are. You have not had to change or pretend to be someone you are not. I hope you can embrace these new friends and learn to open up, making these true two way friendships.

Tammy Hartwig