by The Friend
After I’d left the corporate world behind in 2001 to pursue another career path, I learned that a former co-worker (I’ll call her “Kathy”) was too ill to work. I got in touch with her. We went out to lunch a few times. I called once in a while. No big deal, or so I thought.
A year or so later, my own life went to hell in a handbasket. My marriage had disintegrated past all hope of repair. Because of a huge expensive house, my estranged husband and I were forced to live together until it sold.
After six months, when we finally got our first offer, the buyers wanted possession in 30 days. We hadn’t even talked about who would get what. I also needed to get rid of items neither of us wanted, pack the rest, and move. There wasn’t enough time to find a long-term place, so I decided to put most of my things into storage and find temporary lodging for me, my two cats, and my home office.
Imagine my surprise when Kathy, who had become my confidante as my marriage fell apart, offered me a room in her house for as long as I needed. Then she came over to help me pack, organize and run a garage sale. When my father took ill in the middle of my move, she took over whatever needed doing. I was floored, but exceedingly grateful.
I lived in Kathy’s house for a couple of months, eventually found a condo, and settled in there. Even though I ended up a half an hour away, Kathy and I talk almost daily and see each other often. She has supported me through moving, career developments, romantic entanglements, and my own illness. She never seems able to do enough for me, though I couldn’t figure out what I’d done to deserve such a wonderful friend.
In 2004 I asked Kathy that very question. It seems that when she was ill, suffering from major clinical depression, I was the only one who kept reaching out to her.
Even though what I did seemed to me hardly worth mentioning, it had a huge impact on her. Ironically, she told me that she didn’t think that she had done that much for me, either. Yet for me, having her support made a tremendous difference in my life.
Again and again, the lesson of Heroic Stories is that little things mean a lot. I have had that lesson driven home. I take much more care about saying unkind words, even when apparently deserved, for I can’t know what a horrid day, week, or year the other person may be having.
I will never again hesitate about reaching out. Even if my gesture seems insignificant, I can’t know how much it may mean to the other person — or how he or she will respond.