Where Logic Meets Love

Garage Sales and Friendships

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

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Garage Sales and Friendships | Faith Permeating Life
This post is a bit belated given that our garage sale was two weekends ago, but I think the lessons are still relevant.

In preparation for our garage sale, I forced myself to go through all of the containers that were in the closet of the bedroom in my parents' basement. Most of what was in there was 10-15 years old, maybe even more. Toys and figurines from my childhood bedroom, boxes of crafts that were half used-up -- things that had at some point been stored in my bedroom closet, then moved from one closet to another as I moved bedrooms and then houses, and finally moved into the basement bedroom closet when my sister took over my bedroom and I moved out.

They were things I hadn't been able to get rid of before, despite holding umpteen garage sales in the meantime. Things I would never use or display again, but which I held onto because they reminded me of the past.

I finally let go of them by reminding myself of one simple fact: I had gotten a lot of use out of these items. It's not like they were untouched, never opened. The figurines had been displayed on my shelves for years; the craft sets and toys provided hours of entertainment. Even though I had no use for them now, that made them no less valuable to my life; rather, their time had simply come and gone, and now I could pass them on to someone else without devaluing them in the process. My memories are no less valid because I don't have the corresponding physical items.

You might think these reflections led to my thoughts about friendships, but actually it's the other way around -- I came to the above conclusion by applying a truth I already believed about friendships.

An illustration: When I was a senior in college, thanks to the magic of Facebook, I reconnected with a girl who had been my best friend in 3rd and 4th grade, until she moved to another state. We didn't do much in the way of catching up via the Internet, but shortly thereafter she said she would be in the area looking at grad schools and asked if she could stop by my campus and see me. The weekend she was coming unfortunately coincided with a minor surgery I had, but she was still able to come by for a few hours to see me while I was laid up on the couch.

She and I had stayed in touch for a few years after she moved, and I went to visit her once when I was 13. It was clear from that visit that we'd become different people, and when I saw her at 21, there was no "spark" of renewed friendship, just a pleasant time updating each other on our lives.

Part of me wanted to mourn this "lost" friendship -- that we were so close for a few years, yet ended up being no more than Facebook friends with not much in common. You have to understand, I guess, that most of the friends I made in middle school are still my good friends to this day. We stayed in a tight-knit (sometimes suffocatingly so) group all the way through high school, continued to get together on holiday breaks in college, and still stay in touch and see each other whenever possible.

But I've come to realize that a friendship is not less valuable for being over, if that friendship served you well during its time. A friendship doesn't have to "survive" to present day, or until the day you die, to be a worthwhile friendship. Sometimes God gives you a friend during a time that you need a friend. My family moved to Illinois when I was starting 3rd grade, so having a best friend -- especially one who had also just moved to the area -- during those first few years was a huge blessing.

I had a similar experience near the end of high school. Remember that suffocating group of friends? I prayed to God that I would make a new friend outside of the group, and then I did. Of course, I made the dual mistake of trying to date him and trying to assimilate him into my existing friend group, but nonetheless, the friendship was there when I needed it. Even though I'm sad we've lost contact, I'm exceptionally grateful for the short-lived friendship we had.

A mentor once shared a quotation that encapsulated this idea, and unfortunately I can't find it, so I'll have to poorly paraphrase instead. It compared the whole of our life to a piece of music, and the various instruments and harmonies as the people we meet along the way. Some people provide a constant bass line throughout the whole piece, while others are a short but beautiful bridge that lasts for a short while and then fades away, but all these parts add up to one complete symphony.

I like the idea that this can extend to more than friendships. It is the well-loved toy given away, or the past job where you learned all you could and moved on. Even romantic relationships -- our culture tends to label relationships as "failed" if they end in anything but death, yet the richness someone brought to your life for a period of time is not nullified by the end of the relationship.

With that, I wish you many happy endings and new beginnings.

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