Oh, happy Saturday! So what if it was raining when I headed out on my errands? My large and obnoxious golf umbrella would keep me dry. A visit to a friend’s house was also on my itinerary; I had no complaints.
My visit, ill-timed, was right in the middle of some impromptu parenting. Then it was over and my friend apologized. I don’t have children; what could I say? My friend is an engaged, loving, and selfless parent. She wants her children to grow up to be responsible adults — engaged, loving, and selfless.
The house cleared of children and my friend shared the details of her recent parental struggle. I listened, because that’s what friends do. Several times during the conversation, my friend apologized for elaborating on topics she thought I wouldn’t care to hear about. I was happy to listen. I reminded her of the many times the conversational situation had been reversed and I was yammering on about something far more trivial than raising the next generation. Things like an injustice at a nail salon or being ignored by an hors d’oeuvres passing waiter at a cocktail party.
Our visit flew by and then I was back in the car, heading home. I thought about my friend and out of the deep recesses of my brain, unlocked from an Aqua-net hairspray mist, came a memory of her kindness.
It was 1985. Senior year at the University of Maine at Orono and the whole year was one slow plod towards graduation. There were classes and papers, but mostly there was coffee and waiting. Coffee in big cups from 7-11 in Orono, coffee in the Bear’s Den, and even coffee in the Damn Yankee, a hang-out for graduate students and off-campus characters with big knapsacks and bags. Granolas, we called them.
I don’t remember the price of a cup of coffee back then, but I never seemed to have any money when my friend would suggest “let’s get a cup of coffee.” Why was that? I had a work-study job.
“I’m broke. Can you spot me a cup?”
She always said “sure.” Sometimes, she’d spot me a cookie or a sandwich, too.
It felt awful being broke, without money for a cup of coffee. I’m sure it was some type of financial mismanagement on my part. Maybe I took my friend’s largesse for granted for a time. It can happen. I don’t think she kept an accounting of coffee cups, but deep within me, I knew I needed to overcome the empty pocketbook financial shortfall.
1985 merged into 1986 and we graduated from college and the coffee klatch dispersed. I was living in Portland, trying to become responsible. Once in a while, my friend Ed would ask me if I could “spot” him a cup of coffee and I would.
I don’t remember making any kind of Scarlett O’Hara oath, vowing that me and mine would never go without coffee again, but as time has passed, I’ve always tried to have enough money in my pocketbook to buy another person a cup of coffee or a cookie.
Coffee, cookies, empty pocketbooks. Why was I telling this story?
Oh. It was about investments and investors. “Angel investors.”
Friendship, listening, and yes, sometimes cups of coffee are sort of like investments, albeit of a spiritual nature. Like anything in life, friendship is risky and speculative. Prior to investing in friendship, one must consider carefully whether it is suitable, in light of one’s circumstances and resources and in light of the risk. In friendship, one should be able and willing to assume the total loss of the investment.
There is an alternative to such risky investments. It’s called loneliness.
Decide for yourself.