How do you define the word “friend”?

Those really are my children - pretty cool, right?

For the last 8 years I have sent out photo cards and a Christmas letter to about 100 people. It makes my husband’s head spin every time I throw out that number. Believe it or not, our first year of marriage there were even more. The list predominately came from our wedding invitation list, which is mostly made up of family. My dad is one of five children, my mother one of three, my mother-in-law is one of two and my father-in-law is one of three. All of these aunts and uncles got married and/or had children and some of their children are now married with children. So you do the math; that’s a LOT of family Christmas cards. And then there are our close friends, acquaintances and daily contacts.

This year I decided to change things up a little and make a beautiful professional-looking photo story card from Shutterfly. My annual letter had started to feel like a list of boastful accolades, so highlighting a few events of 2010 and focusing more on our many blessings seemed in keeping with the true spirit of the holiday. It also seemed like maybe it was time to whittle away the list a little too. I ordered only 75 cards.

But as I started to address all the envelopes, my heart became anxious and guilty. How in the world was I going to decide who would or wouldn’t get a card from us? How would someone feel to not get a card from us after 8 consecutive years of getting a card? Obviously all of our family should get one, regardless of how often we hear from them. After all, they are family and I want them to know that I do think of them, even if for one holiday a year. Then there are all the “family friends” of mine, DW’s and both sides of the family. And what about childhood friends, or the friends we first made when we moved to Michigan and had nobody, or the new friends we’ve recently made this year? Where exactly do you draw the line?

I don’t think I can really define the word “friend” because they come in all shapes and sizes to fit all kinds of needs and seasons of our life. There are friends that I have known  for years that if I met them today we might not be friends because we have so little in common anymore (save our years of history), and then there are new friends that feel like we’ve known each other a lifetime because of how much our stories over-lap. I have shopping friends, drinking buddies, school and sports social circles, Facebook familiars, friendly neighbors, occasional lunch ladies,  re-surfaced classmates, and those unique individuals that feel like family and would come running to help you even in the middle of the night.

My life is richer for knowing all of them. A friend isn’t always someone who invests in you, but someone whom you invest yourself. They might be the random person you gave a ride home once after orchestra rehearsal or the person that texts you every couple of days to see how your exercise goals are coming. I’d hate to think that I would treat one person differently over another simply because I have labeled them “friend”.

Obviously a GOOD friend is someone who encourages as much as she needs encouragement, offers help unconditionally, respects your values and world view even if she doesn’t agree, is honest and trustworthy, enjoys you even on your worst days, loyal, can laugh with you rather than at you, loves unconditionally and forgives freely. And for me, a GREAT friend has all those qualities, but also loves my kids unconditionally too.

But regardless of where people fall on my “friend” meter, I want to be, at the very least, their GOOD friend. Which is why I am thankful that Walmart offers 1-hour photo card services.

4 thoughts on “How do you define the word “friend”?

  1. oh man, i was struggling with this for 2010. Seriously. I cut from 100+ to 80. And then forgot some. Ordering was a hassle. And to me? If it’s a hassle, I quit. So -I send cards to people I’m thinking about thru the year and want to update them at year end. If it’s ONLY a once a year thing? I cut them from the list. I just had to. Not easy.

  2. I just today started addressing, by hand, the envelopes for our annual Christmas card (I am currently typing with a slight hand-limp), and like you did mine online at Shutterfly. The past few years I’ve only ordered about 50, which gives me enough for close friends and family, with a few left over just-in-case for those “oh shit I forgot…” moments. There are always family members I won’t send to, like the ones I’ve only seen more than once in my lifetime, but oh well. Gotta draw the line somewhere. From one Mommy Blogger ‘friend’ to another, hope you have a great holiday season! Looking forward to reading your work in 2011 🙂

  3. Just know that I’m happy seeing pics of you and the family and reading your FB posts – that’s enough for me. The phone calls, texts, and emails we share are great, as are the once a year giggly visits we get to have. I’m blessed, no doubt about it.

  4. It is so hard these days to label people. We are inundated with “friends” from every direction and some we’ve never even met. however, people touch our lives in different ways and each way is equally as important. I had a hard time this year narrowing my card list down too. Postage is getting too expensive! good luck.

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