It’s said you only find out who your friends really are when times are tough and the chips are down. Well, we’ve pretty much all been feeling like that varying degrees of lockdown have cycled through communities around the world over the past few months.
When times are hard, people show you who they really are. It’s easy to be nice when everything is rosy in the garden. It’s people who are still nice in the teeth of overwhelming personal pressures who are the real deal. Everyone else was just pretending.
The kids who FaceTime grandparents living on their own, far from their family, just to make sure they’re OK. The nurse who doesn’t go home after an exhausting 12-hour shift saving lives without making sure their neighbour, who looks after three kids under five all by themselves, has everything they need from the shops. The delivery drivers who have been a lifeline for so many, and still manage to stay cheerful despite their punishing schedules.
As Andrew Gold put it…
Thank you for being a friend
Travelled down a road and back again
Your heart is true, you’re a pal and a confidant
We sometimes think of “being a friend” as someone we spend a lot of time with, someone who we go on holidays with and spend large chunks of time in their company.
But that’s not what a friend is at all. There are plenty of people I spend a lot of time with who I wouldn’t remotely consider to be friends. We might be in the same physical space, but that doesn’t mean their heart is true or that they’re a pal or a confidant.
On the other hand, my window cleaner, who I see just once every few weeks for just a couple of minutes as I had over his money, always has a warm smile and time for a chat about football or world events. He might not be a confidant, but he’s certainly a pal. And much more of a pal than anyone I work with.
The fun for me in listening to Andrew Gold sing “Thank You For Being A Friend” is in imagining what the song’s back story might have been.
What must his friend have done to be told…
If it’s a car you lack
I’d surely buy you a Cadillac
Whatever you need, any time of the day or night
That’s the sort of friendship that’s unlikely to be based on a grand gesture or two, however grateful you might be for those at the time.
In “Thank You For Being A Friend”, Andrew Gold is singing about something much deeper than that…about someone who’s been a selfless supporter, a tireless cheerleader, and an unfailing rouser of spirits for many, many years.
And while there might have been a big gesture or two along the way, more likely it was thousands of little things delivered every day without charge, without complaint and without expectation of return.
That’s the only way you develop the depth of feeling Andrew Gold describes in “Thank You For Being A Friend”. This is a song about someone who’s been with you for the long haul, and who will stay on the path beside you for the rest of their days.
But there’s two sides to this.
Maybe the sort of person Andrew Gold sings about truly is your friend. But how good a friend are you to them?
Most people recoil at that question. But it’s entirely possible that you feel you can completely rely on someone else without them feeling they can rely on you in anything like the same way.
They’re still there for you…and always will be…because they’re good people with warm hearts. But who looks after them?
I’ve been thinking about that a lot this week since I read a quote by the late, great Robin Williams…
I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that.
That might just be true for a lot of “best friends” too.
Whether or not you’re a great friend to them, they work hard to be a great friend to you because they don’t want anyone else to feel the intense loneliness they carry with them through life.
Sometimes, perhaps, a best friend is doing what they do to make sure nobody else feels as isolated as they do.
As Andrew Gold puts it…
And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you knew
Well, you would see, the biggest gift would be from me
And the card attached would say
Thank you for being a friend
Take a moment to consider the people you’d call friends.
When did you last thank them for being a friend?
If they had a party tomorrow, would you help organise it or would you turn up late and half-cut because that’s what you always do, and because you know they’ll generously forgive you for it without another word, like they’ve done a hundred times before?
If they needed something, and you had one of whatever it was, would you give it to them without question and without the expectation of receiving anything in return?
If the last few months has taught us anything, it’s taught us that what matters in life is other people. It’s not possessions. It’s not politics. It’s not big corporations.
Specifically, it’s the people we can turn to when times are hard and the chips are down. People we can go to with a problem and, before we even open our mouth, we know they’ll do everything within their power to support us in any way we need.
If that’s the sort of friendship you’ve got, don’t ever let that slip away because friendships of that quality don’t come along very often in life.
Make sure, as you move through life together, you can look your friend straight in the eye and tell them with complete sincerity…
And when we both get older
With walking canes and hair of grey
Have no fear, even though it’s hard to hear
I will stand real close and say
Thank you for being a friend
“Thank You For Being A Friend” wasn’t a massive hit when it came out in 1978, only reaching Number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100, and not even cracking the UK’s Top 40.
But “Thank You For Being A Friend” had a life far beyond that of the average minor pop hit. A cover of Andrew Gold’s song was used as the theme tune for the popular TV comedy series The Golden Girls in the 1980s and 1990s.
It’s become one of those songs much younger people know today even if they weren’t around to remember the charts of 1978 and have never seen a single episode of The Golden Girls.
Andrew Gold reminded us all that it’s not enough just to have a friend. We need to be a friend, and thank those who show friendship to us for everything they do.
Here’s Andrew Gold to show us how…with his own composition “Thank You For Being A Friend”…
If you’ve read this far, thank you for spending a few moments in the company of one of my favourite songs. The video is below, but if you prefer listening to your music on Spotify, you can find today’s track here… https://open.spotify.com/track/5yNUgA66PbcPIJPOU2eBwR