When we think back to the times in our lives when we have needed some help, or advice, or a shoulder to cry on, those are the times we learned who our true friends were. If we were blessed already to know who our true friends were, those are the ones we called to help, to advise, or to offer their shoulder.
Of course, we know there are certain things you can ask only of a friend – when you are in an embarrassing predicament, your true friend is the one who will not only help, but will do so without laughing (at least not until you can both laugh about it later).
Blessed Rosalie once wrote back to a friend who had asked her for a favor so she could thank him for the request, saying: “I cannot tell you how you please me in giving me the opportunity to do something for your interests. Always act this way with me, without any hesitation. It is the proof of friendship that I hope for.” [Sullivan, 237]
And isn’t this how we react to requests from our friends, too? We might not say the words, but inside we are proud and grateful to be the ones who are trusted to help, and to share the burden. We also share our friends’ secrets; the troubles they will only confide in their closest friends. Bl. Frédéric wrote about home visits, explaining that when we visit the neighbor, “we share the lonely secret of his lonely heart and troubled mind”. Just like any good friend, we listen and we keep those secrets, without being asked.
Our Rule calls us to “form relationships based on trust and friendship” with the neighbors we serve. [Rule, Part I, 1.9] The neighbors who have called us, who have asked us for help, even though it may have been embarrassing for them to do so, have taken the first step of friendship. By confiding in us their stories, their secrets, and their struggles, they have treated us not only as friends, but as true friends; the closest of friends.
There are times when our Conferences may be short on money and may not be able to offer the material help that the neighbor needs, but that is never a reason not to visit. If we truly believe that “giving love, talents and time is more important than giving money” [Rule, Part I, 3.14] then our treasuries are always full!
The friendship we share with each other, we are bound to share also with the neighbor, welcoming them into our community of faith. After all, our true friends are the ones who ask for help.
Have I inadvertently withheld my friendship from a neighbor, focusing too much on the “transaction?”