Jeff and Nancy are dear friends of mine. We’ve been friends for nearly a decade. We met as co-workers and have become closer in the years after my leaving our mutual employer.
But, friendship isn’t easy. I’m not easy.
A while back, I invited Jeff and Nancy over for dinner. They decided they’d bring Chinese takeout and meet me at my place the next night around 6:00.
The next day, I’m between clients and I get a text from Jeff. He and Nancy are at my house, and wondering how far away I am.
Oh Crap! Crap!! Crap!! CRAP!! I got my nights mixed up. We clearly had discussed this night. Ugh… There is no way I can get away!
I stand up people who bring me dinner? I stand up people who bring and delivered said dinner to MY HOUSE! What kind of person does that? Well, I guess I do.
Here’s the even sadder thing. This is not the first time I’ve done this. Several years before I did it to another friend. It’s not lack of care (which I know is hard to believe). It’s lack of attention to detail.
I was embarrassed, apologetic, and sick to my stomach….both times. I know! I can’t even believe it myself. My behavior is so disregarding and self-centered. (Don’t you want me as your counselor now?)
Both sets of friends said it was nothing and we’d plan it again, and not to think a thing of it.
But here’s the beauty: they meant it.
They didn’t use my blunder as a weapon later on. They didn’t shame me for making an honest mistake or pretend it wasn’t a big deal when in fact they were harboring resentment. They just loved me in all my humanness.
Now, I get that my example of offense isn’t earth-shattering, but it is offensive nonetheless.
The kind of grace and kindness they showed is not something I was used to. I was accustomed to the kind of grace that is often talked about in theory but rarely put into practice. I was used to the kind of forgiveness that meant if you made an error, no matter how small, you were going to pay for it for a while.
Grace that is not at all gracious and forgiveness that isn’t forgiving is crazy making.
I want to be Jeff and Nancy when I grow up. They know how to love. The love they show feels like love.
Jeff and Nancy aren’t care’takers’, subconsciously desiring something in return for the care they show. They are care’givers’. Freely giving out of big ol’ hearts.
They are both deeply devoted, fiercely loyal, quick-witted, brilliant, sarcastic, tender, and honest. These are friends I call to help bury the bodies or at least bail me out and not ask questions.
They say, “Let me at ‘em” when I feel hurt, and, “you make a difference” when I feel rudderless.
I’ve learned that friends will show up to move a couch, share my pizza, and my pain, and not expect anything besides honesty and a hug in return.
Most importantly though, they don’t pretend to be needless, wantless superheroes.
They willingly accept care. They express their hurt and pain. They have done real life and don’t pretend it’s been easy. They are just people that choose love. They choose to love me, and I’ve forever grateful.
When I’m not sure of the next right thing, I think, “What would Jeff and Nancy do?” Sometimes, that means leaving cold Chinese takeout on the front step of a friend who has been kind of an ass.
Who is your Jeff and Nancy? If you don’t have a Jeff and Nancy. Be one!
P.S. They will HATE this blog post. They are humble, modest folks and they’ll take me to the woodshed for posting it. …Sooooo worth it!!