CONSTANCE BANNISTER CORP/GETTY IMGESI grew up in a family that didn’t show affection. I knew I was loved, but it was rarely expressed, either in words or with a hug. Then, at the age of 40, I met Judy. I quickly noticed how often she told her kids she loved them and how she hugged everyone hello and goodbye. As with any habit, I picked it up, and the more I did so, the easier it became for me. Now I never fail to hug friends or family members, and it has completely changed how I relate to them. It’s an awesome feeling! Oh, I love you, Judy! Betty Plough, Traverse City, Michigan. These are little things that you can do to be a true friend.
Five months after my husband, my two-year-old daughter, and I moved 2,000 miles from home, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl with severely clubbed feet. This marked the beginning of a long series of doctor appointments. Taking care of two young children, one of whom required constant medical attention, meant that I was always tired and behind on my household chores. One day, we came home from yet another doctor’s visit to find the front door ajar. I cautiously proceeded into the house, only to find the floors spotless, the dishes cleaned and dried, and the dirty laundry washed and folded. Upstairs, the beds were made, and there were even flowers in a vase beside my bed. It turns out that my friend Joy was driving by my home and noticed my car was gone, so she took the opportunity to help me out. I learned an important lesson that day about compassion. And this friendship was sealed for life! Judith Heicksen, Santa, Idaho
My fiancé walked out on me three days before our wedding. Now every year on the anniversary of the day I would have been married, my best friend texts me a hilarious (and completely inappropriate) picture, reminding me I dodged a bullet. His humor makes a hard day better. Jason Woods, via Twitter
Because we are all over the country, my three closest friends (Miranda, Rachel, and Johlandi) and I keep in touch via group texting. We share daily struggles, complaints, triumphs, and, most of all, laughs. These special ladies respond nonjudgmentally to whatever I tell them, allowing me to be as vulnerable as I please. Conversely, it’s a blessing to help them through their difficult times. Having such receptive friends has taught me that life is more fun and meaningful when I share myself with others. Lauren Young, Rockingham, Virginia. Try these ways to be a better friend.
After my wife of 44 years died, I didn’t feel the urge to socialize. But that didn’t stop my friend Tony from inviting me to join a group of guys who got together every Thursday for dinner. I told him I wasn’t ready. He called again the next week, and again I said no. He kept calling every week, and finally I said, “OK, I’ll go. Anything to keep you from calling me every week.” It has now been six years since my wife died, and thanks to Tony, I have been going to dinner every week with the gang we’ve dubbed ROMEO— Retired Old Men Eating Out. David Fenwick, Ocean Township, New Jersey
One night after teaching a late class, I found a sticky note on the window of my car. It read “You are beautiful inside and out” and featured a little heart. I never did find out which one of my friends left it for me, but it is still on my dashboard and means more than anything to me. Jennie Berglund, Burnsville, Minnesota
After seven years of teaching, I was let go before the school year ended. I was devastated. Making matters worse, some of the other teachers stopped talking to me. But one coworker stood by me, going so far as to ask the principal to let me work with her till the end of the school year. He reluctantly agreed. Continuing to work gave me back my dignity. I’m now at another job, where I am happy and confident. Beth Klementovic, Exton, Pennsylvania
Today is my birthday, and I know my friend Linda is making me a cake. Sometimes when you’re an adult, no one thinks to do that for you. Tamara Castellari, Parachute, Colorado
COURTESY LORRAINE MORROWIn my senior year of high school, my mother passed away. Dad, who lived in Seattle, wanted me to live with him. But my friend Joy invited me to stay with her and her father until I graduated. Joy’s mother had passed away a few years earlier, so Joy understood my terrible loss and depression. Because of her generosity, I was able to complete my last year of high school with all my friends, affording me a bit of normalcy. Lorraine Morrow, Bonney Lake, Washington
My best friend and I are both trying to lose weight, so we text each other every day to check in. He encourages me to work out when I don’t want to or to put down the ice cream. It really helps me stay on track. Rick Nelson, via Twitter
When I was pregnant, I felt—and acted—as if I had PMS for the entire nine months. My best friend, Laura, told me she was calling me every other day to make sure someone was still speaking to me. That is true friendship. Gail Bua, Nutley, New Jersey
Whenever I visited Ruth at the rest home, I’d always greet her with, “Good morning, sweetie.” She, in turn, would say, “Heeeyyyyyy! I’ve been missing you.” For as long as I knew Ruth, she greeted me with “I’ve been missing you,” even if I’d just seen her that morning. And when I’d leave, it was always, “Come back!” As if you need more of a reason to have friends, these facts prove that friends are healthy for us.
Ruth was my first friend in South Carolina. Our house was built on her property. I went over and introduced myself one day and told her that I’m out every morning and if she liked, I could bring her newspaper to her door. She said, “Well, I suppose that would be all right.” It wasn’t long after that I started bringing her the afternoon mail and cookies too. And soon I started taking her to the library, doctors, and the store.
At the rest home, if Ruth’s breakfast tray was ready, I’d pick it up. I knew how she liked her grits, with just a bit of butter and salt, and that she really, really liked orange juice and always got two glasses. After a bit, it would be time to go. She’d give me a kiss and tell me to “come back!”
I am ashamed to admit that at one time, both my grandmothers were in convalescent homes and I rarely visited them. I cannot change the person I was, but I can try to be a better person today. Ruth is no longer with us, but I wish to God that I could “come back” and visit with her again. Janet Alden, Inman, South Carolina
Lisa comes over, and we do each other’s nails while we lie in bed watching TV like high school girls. Shannon Hagen, Minneapolis, Minnesota
When I was nine, I had a friend with the unusual name of Westa Joy. I can still picture her wild, naturally curly hair; her porcelain skin; and her sparkling hazel eyes. I, on the other hand, was overweight and shy. We used to walk laughing and holding hands down a sandy dirt road in southeastern New Mexico. She would tell me the plot of the latest Nancy Drew book she was reading. I had never read a book, and I didn’t want to. Reading was much too difficult for me because I was dyslexic. But thanks to Westa’s storytelling, I eventually bought all the Nancy Drew books. Thank you, my dear childhood friend, for giving me the joy of reading. Essie Bowden, North Kingstown, Rhode Island
COURTESY MEGHAN SIMECEKI came down with a horrible stomach bug when my husband was out of town. My best friend showed up with saltines, Sprite, essential oils, and—the best part—her Netflix password. Meghan Simecek, Friendswood, Texas
Dawn, my friend and coworker at the public defender’s office, would bring me some of her dinner from the night before and leave it in the fridge at work when I was in the middle of a long trial. This way, I wouldn’t have to worry about feeding myself on late nights. Adrianne McMahon, Faribault, Minnesota
If she knows I’m having a rough day, my friend will show up and take my kids for the day. By just showing up instead of calling, Stacy knows I can’t tell her not to come. Courtney Clements, Nampa, Idaho
I met Mary Lou 14 years ago, while tending the grave of my 34-year-old son Kevin just weeks after he passed. Mary Lou was visiting her son Gary. She smiled, and soon we were sharing our stories—not only about our sons but about life in general. On my next visit with Kevin, I saw a piece of paper sticking out from under a rock—an inspirational note from Mary Lou. I wrote her back and put my note under the same rock. A week later, I returned to find another note from Mary Lou. We went back and forth like this for years. Today, we still see each other, but usually over a hot fudge sundae. We talk and laugh and rarely feel the need to discuss our deep pain. That’s why we are friends for life. Patricia Coler-Dark, Concord, California
Shannon, my best friend of over 26 years, and I text each other every morning with “Good morning, beautiful!” or “Hello, gorgeous!” That way, we both start the day with a smile. Katrina La Force, Petaluma, California
When I was four, my mother had her hands full with six children. Luckily, there was our neighbor Berla. Berla, 48, had no children, so I had her full attention. She taught me simple things, like how to care for my teeth, as well as big things, like a love of long walks. She also taught me to play cribbage, which came with these words of advice: “There is a perfect strategy for every hand dealt.” That concept has impacted every aspect of my life. Linda Sealock, Reno, Nevada
My best friend in college taught me spontaneity. One day Christie persuaded me to run around campus dressed in battle armor and wielding a cardboard sword, all while laughing maniacally. People stared at us, but we had too much fun to care. Caroline Samuels, Logan, Utah
I was having a horrible day dealing with job and divorce stress, and my friend Anna brought me ice cream. Just having her show up to listen to me whine was exactly what I needed. Tracy Clark, Lakeville, Minnesota. If you want to show your friend how much they mean to you, get them one of these best friend gifts.