Friendship is a beautiful type of relationship. We experience a serene type of love that is reinforced by pleasant experiences and enjoyable time spent together. Kindnesses and favors are reciprocal and seemingly automatic. Good friends do good things for each other without pretense nor one upmanship. There is an easy-going balance among true friends.
Close friends make an effort towards mutual concessions and forbearance. When these are not done out of a sense of obligation but out of habit, the friendship evolves act by act. Our shared actions are maintained by mutual respect. Best friends treat each other as equals.
While friends are eager and willing to do favors without thought of payback, when the debt is repaid, mutual trust is strengthened. When one friend habitually neglects paying back favors, trust is diminished and the friendship is weakened. After all, an informal sense of equality is essential for friends to remain friends.
Back in 1979, a good friend was going through some hard times and needed some financial assistance. He took out a small consumer loan from his bank. He asked me to cosign the loan. I naively agreed to do so. I figured that we had built up plenty of trust between us. The friend paid a couple of payments to the bank then bailed out.
I only found out about this when the bank contacted me and demanded that I repay my friend’s loan. At considerable inconvenience and financial difficulty, I made good on the friend’s debt. Meantime, this friend had packed his bags and moved to Iowa. This was done without warning and, of course, no intent to repay me.
Naturally, I felt taken advantage of. The loss of the money was bad enough, but to have my friend commit the fraud was a serious betrayal. I eventually forgave him and chalked up the serious misdeed to experience. I also vowed to never cosign a bank loan for anyone again.
Yesterday, I received a business size envelope in the mail with a Knoxville, Tennessee postmark and no return address. I would have dismissed the envelope as junk mail except that my address was hand written in a cursive style I vaguely remembered. Inside the envelope was a cashier’s check from my wayward friend. He included a short note:
“I hope this reaches you and that you are in good health. My conscience has caught up with me. The cheque is made out in the amount I owe you plus the fair rate of interest the bank would have charged me for an outstanding loan. I hope this kind of makes up for my unkindness to you.” He signed the short memo with his initials.
I was flabbergasted. I was also puzzled because he had not included his address nor a phone number where he could be reached. I wonder how he had obtained my current address, because I have moved and changed addresses four times since he left Nebraska.
I felt happy that the friend sent a fair repayment and felt remorse about his betrayal. However, I want to acknowledge his good deed and catch up on what he has done with his life. Why has he chosen to remain semi-anonymous? So, in a way, his personal, emotional debt remains unpaid. I hope I can find a way to contact him in order to thank him for doing the right thing.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes author Herman Melville. “Amity itself can only be maintained by reciprocal respect, and true friends are punctilious equals.”