One of the great things about true friendship is the diversity of experiences……those you can learn from - those that are pure fun - those you can laugh about - the ones that surprise you and those you gain inspiration from.
I’ve learned from my friend Sean in a variety of ways although one moment was poignant for me:
It occurred at a drying cleaning place on one of our business travels. I was impatient and rude with an employee because my shirt collar was not done to my satisfaction. Sean immediately confronted me on the disrespect I was displaying to this woman. He wasn’t done. After we left the shop, he got in my face and told me how lousy my attitude was and that I should not have treated her that way.
He was right. It was a moment I still cringe at when I think about it as it was less about the woman and more about my lack of PATIENCE. No friend has ever been in my face to that degree although I am glad he did. From that day, I vowed to become a more patient man and it might not have happened if Sean wasn’t bold enough to tell me exactly what I needed to hear. Today, I’m proud of my patience.
The pure fun we’ve had is extensive and some of the best moments of my life. I’ll touch on one—our times in the Big Apple. I lived in NYC for 10 years and Sean often visited for business and pleasure. I was able to introduce him to a great connection for his sales job and he closed the business quickly. The big sale required him to be in NYC from time to time and that was when our NYC time together blossomed!
Our times were sizzling and always interesting, including time spent watching the exciting NY Knicks basketball team, Bill Clinton fundraisers, attending glamorous events along with meeting some of the USA’s most dynamic business people. The beauty of NYC is that unless you have lived there, you won’t ever have an idea about the pulse, energy and day to day life of what I call the “best city in the world”. For never living in NYC, Sean came about as close as one can to knowing what it would be like to be a resident.
Now, what is friendship without a good laugh?
Since we both share a passion for golf, this moment has to be mentioned. We can laugh at it now but it wasn’t so funny for Sean at the time.
Sean is a good golfer although there was a time when he lost his “mojo”. His simply couldn’t hit the ball. Let me clarify. If Sean was standing on the beach and his only goal was to hit the ball into the open water, it would have been a tough task. I’ve never seen anything like it but being the competitive person I am, I knew I had to take advantage of it and him.
I’m a competent golfer although I had never beaten Sean in all our years of golfing prior to his downfall. So when his “golfing gone wild” moment occurred, I pounced on the opportunity and beat him six times in a row…….and I was having a ball! I had to laugh occasionally as the inability for such a good golfer to turn briefly into an aimless beginner was frankly laughable. I did feel for him sometimes yet I knew this tough moment wouldn’t last long.
He eventually got that fine golf swing back and I’ve never beaten him since but those six times were pure fun. Just as enjoyable were the hundreds of times we’ve played golf as a twosome or foursome, often meeting at 6am to tee off! Few things are better than playing a round of golf with true friends.
I’ve learned to embrace surprises over the years, particularly the unexpected ones. Those that have occurred less frequently for me are the gentle surprises – ones that touch the heart. One of those occurred at my wedding in Sweden.
At a typical Swedish wedding, there are many toasts to the bride and groom, sometimes 15-20 speeches. When Sean stood up to give his toast, I expected one about our time together yet I was gently surprised at what came out of his mouth.
Now keep in mind that Swedes are not religious people. Sean knew this about Sweden but as a man of faith, he stayed true to his self and asked all the guests to bow their heads and then proceeded to bless us with a prayer – a prayer that moved me immensely. Even though there weren’t many religious people in the room, I know they felt his eloquence and the power that is prayer.
In my opinion, a necessity of true friendship is inspiration. One of those times for me was at the funeral of Sean’s father. He talked about his father in such a loving and eloquent manner - capturing the essence of the man. I didn’t know his father but was blown away and inspired by the speech he delivered that day. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I would need that inspiration only 4 shorts years later when my father died.
Preparing my speech for my dad’s funeral, I drew strength from Sean’s words. I don’t know if I would have been as effective in honoring my dad that day if I didn’t hear his speech 4 years earlier.
Sean is one of my closest and dearest friends. He’s one of a handful of friends that I trust implicitly and know that I can rely on him for whatever my needs may be. I’m a better man because of his friendship.
Even though I live thousands of miles away, the bond we share will never be broken.
The psychologist and philosopher William James said it best with this quote:
“Wherever you are, it is your friends who make your world”
Sean, I am glad and grateful that you are a part of my world.
Happy Gswede Sunday!
Sean and his two sons