Look at the people in your life.  Most of them are acquaintances—people you know from work, the gym, or the grocery store.  You smile to them, say hi and make small talk.  You like them but you don’t really know them.  Then you have your “social” friends—people you know pretty well and enjoy spending time with.  You might go to Happy Hour or dinner with them.  You have fun with them but you don’t know them at a deeper, more personal level. 

Now think about your REAL friends.  They are friends who will be there for you no matter what.  They are supportive and loving—they truly care about your happiness the same way you do about theirs.  You know who these people are in your life. 

I met my first real friend in 6th grade—Michele Rose.  Middle school was a very awkward time for me.  I was tall and skinny with no boobs—and, by the way, I STILL don’t have any .  Even though I was athletic, my lack of confidence made me an easy target for the other girls in school.  I was the “odd man out” and would come home from school crying every day—that is, until I met Michele.  She was the first person to stand up and believe in me.  She told the other girls they were being mean and instead of wanting to be with the “in-crowd”, she chose to hang out with me.  We have remained close all these years even though we only see each other about once a year.  When we do get together, it’s like we’ve never been apart.

Let’s fast forward to college.  After growing up in Ohio, I lived in Gainesville, Florida for a big chunk of my life—23 years.  I went to the University of Florida and never left.  I encouraged my parents and my brother to move to Gainesville so we could all be together.  I honestly thought I would always live there—my LIFE was there.  I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.  But when my marriage fell apart, life in Gainesville felt very different to me.  I knew I had to leave but I couldn’t bear losing my close network of friends. 

Two years later, I moved to Philadelphia to start my new life.  Tears rolled down my face as I left the place I loved for so many years.  I knew I would make new friends, but I also knew it would now take tremendous effort (from both sides) to stay in touch.  I also was acutely aware that during this transition, I would find out who my real friends were.

After moving, my real friends made consistent efforts to show their love for me.  They checked on me via phone and email, they came up to visit me (sometimes as a complete surprise), and they sent cards.  Simply put, they showed me how much they cared.  They knew it was a difficult time for me and they showered me with the love and support I needed at the time.  

When you make a change like that in your life, it makes you realize who your real friends are.  And equally important, you discover that you can make new friends.  I’ve been fortunate to make some incredible friends in Philly.  And guess what?  I still have my friends in Gainesville.  Your real friends will always be there for you—even from a distance. 

But you have to make an effort. 

Relationships take work and effort.  Whether it’s a relationship with your spouse or your friends, you have to reach out and put energy into it.  Don’t EVER take your relationships for granted.  Don’t let your life consume you to the point that you’re neglecting an important person in your life.

Now take a moment to write down the names of your real friends on a sheet of paper.  Think about the last time you spoke to each person.   Call, email, send a card, or connect with them on Facebook.  Make their day by letting them know you’re thinking of them. 

Better yet, plan a weekend away with a small group of your friends.  Get everyone to agree on a date and put it on your calendar.  If you don’t write it down, life gets in the way and it will never happen. 

So take time out of your busy day to reach out to your friends and find time to make new ones.  Thanks to my “old” and “new” friends.  Sorry if your picture isn’t here–you guys know who you are…and you’re the best friends anyone could ever ask for. 

If you have an inspiring story about how your friends have helped you through a difficult time, please share it with us by posting your story.

Smile and Never Stop Appreciating Your Friends,