I’ve been struck, yet again, by the bonds of friendship that connect Miss D., myself and our circle of friends. The most recent manifestation has been the preparations going on at our new home to get it ready for us to move into at the end of the month. Lawdog, Old NFO and Phlegmmy in Texas, plus Oleg and another non-blogging friend here in Nashville (yes, Al, that means you!), have busted their joint and several guts for us, putting us up while we closed on the house and ordered what we needed, offering to lay our new laminate flooring for us to save us the cost of using professionals, recommending a contractor and helping to check on the work he’s doing while we’re not in town, cashing a check for us when we had to get our hands on some folding green stuff in a hurry, helping us to pack and load stuff to take south, looking after our cat while we were traveling . . . there’s a long, long list. One reader of this blog even made a special trip from another town an hour away to help load my pickup for our recent trip south. Now that’s a dedicated supporter! Thanks for literally going the extra several dozen miles for us, buddy.
They’ve made our lives so much easier that I truly don’t think we could have done everything without them – but they shrug it off lightly. “That’s what friends are for!” Well, yes, they are, and I hope Miss D. and I have been, and will continue to be, that sort of friend to them as well: but sadly, such friends aren’t all that common any more. When I look at the ‘friendships’ that seem prevalent among the younger generation, I sometimes wonder what went wrong. So many of them are based on the feelings of the moment rather than what I’d consider lasting values. There’s no sense that a friend is someone you’d do almost anything for and/or with; instead, it’s someone who’s done – or may do – something for you, so you do – or may do – something for them in order to ‘keep them sweet’. It’s based on “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” instead of “Rain or shine, whatever happens, we’re friends”. The military concept of a ‘foxhole buddy‘ is one that I fear would seem utterly alien to those of today’s generation. I hope I’m wrong . . . but I fear I’m not.
I wonder whether perhaps the modern understanding of ‘friendship’ has changed because so few people today are challenged to go beyond themselves, to learn their limitations and then push themselves to exceed them, to put their lives on the line for a higher cause? “Duty, honor, country” or the true, solemn meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance are lost in background noise today, historical artefacts that arouse quizzical curiosity rather than a heartfelt response. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, patriotic Americans in their millions rushed to join the Armed Forces, so much so that many had to be turned away; but after the 9/11 attacks, whilst some patriotic Americans did likewise, far, far more did not. It’s as if there was no longer a sense that an attack on our country was an attack on us all. It was “someone else’s job” to respond. It’s telling that many of our friends are veterans of military service. It shows.
I think this is one area where those who enjoy firearms have an edge over the rest of the country. It’s not a brash, gung-ho, “in-your-face” sort of thing; rather, it’s an appreciation for self-reliance, for putting meat on the table, defending the family and the homeland, putting others ahead of oneself. I see this time and time again at the range. Novices will be identified by regulars, who’ll often go out of their way to help them fire their first shots, offer them the use of their own firearms to “try something new”, and encourage them. When training disabled and handicapped shooters, I’ve been struck by how many others are willing to help once they realize what I’m trying to accomplish. Some even sponsor or donate firearms for the use of such shooters (the latest example was just last week, when a very generous reader of this blog donated a .22LR pistol to ‘the cause’). It’s so common in the so-called ‘gun culture’ that I now regard it as a normal feature of the landscape, nothing out of the ordinary or unusual; but in other segments of society, other more modern pursuits, it is unusual – very much so. That sort of selflessness, openness and acceptance isn’t so common any more, despite (or perhaps because of) all ‘community organizers’ can do.
I certainly see that in our annual Blogorado gatherings out West. Several dozen bloggers gather by invitation at a private location every year to enjoy a long weekend of great food, interesting beverages, hours and hours of shooting (I have no idea how many thousands of rounds we expend, but it’s got to be a long way into five figures!), and hours and hours of conversation and ‘show-and-tell’ around the fire at night. Everyone has a ball (even if it’s a bowling ball fired from a blackpowder mortar!). Even first-timers are bowled over by the camaraderie. All the bloggers I mentioned in the first paragraph are Blogorado veterans, and I’m sure most will agree with me that the bond between us is now equal to that of family or close blood kin. As Matt G. puts it, we’re “Tribe”. We’ve grown that close. If they need help burying a body, Miss D. and I will be there with shovels in less time than it takes to tell it. After the digging, Miss D. will feed them and I’ll replenish their ammo stocks!
A heartfelt “Thank you!” to all our friends for being that sort of friend to us, too. You’re a blessing.
Friends like that are few, and worth their weight in gold – literally. Good to have, and impossible to replace. I only wish I was close enough to help.
I think that it's more that there aren't that many deep friendships in any generation. Some people/groups tend to form such deep friendships, but other groups don't (or at least don't until the people in those groups mature into other groups)
Working with various Search and Rescue organizations, a good cross section of military folks, firemen, Church members, etc. I see a lot of this sort of thing in those groups.
In other groups, not so much. But I think that if you were to go back in time, you would always see some groups that tend to form such bonds, and other groups that don't.
When a person tells you "I have 1000 friends on Facebook" and clearly thinks of them that way, or when your teenager calls each of dozens of people "my best friend," you begin to get an idea of how shallow the terms ("friend" and "best friend") have become. And, from my perspective, as people move increasingly further away from things like shared sacrifice, they miss those experiences that lead them to form strong and enduring bonds.
You are a blessing and I'm proud to be part of this tribe.