Monday, September 1, 2014


"How", my mother-in-law asked me over dinner one night, "can you be friends with someone you have never met?"

I thought this was a very good question, and quite insightful on her part. As with any question, it made me think. It made me think about my friends, both those I have known for years and those I have never had the pleasure of meeting in person. It made me think of those that I have only known for a short time, and those that I will meet for the first time in the near future.

It also made me wonder how we become friends in the first place.

Now I have to explain, before I go on, that she was not criticizing me, but actually curious about something that Marielle were going to do while we were visiting. You see, we were going to the visit a friend of ours who used to live with us in Winnipeg. In addition to meeting this friend, we were also very excited about meeting her parents, and Lise (said mom-in-law) truly wanted to know how we could consider these parents friends when we had never met them.

"Well", I asked, because I had never really thought about it before now, "how do you become friends with someone?"

"Oh, you get to know them by looking them in the eye."

Well, that seemed like a reasonable answer. But then something occurred to me. "What if that person was blind? Or what if you were blind and could never look them in the eye?"

One of the things I love about Lise is that she really considers the questions asked of her.

"I'm not sure," she responded. "I don't know anyone who is blind. But you could still have a conversation with them. Hey, that's it. You talk with them and get to know them."

I liked the sound of that, but then something else occurred to me. "Well, what if they were deaf?"

I could see her processing that, but nothing really came to mind as a response, so I tried another thought. "You said that you get to know them through speech, or words. Right?"

"Oui, c'est vrai." Oh, did I mention she's from Quebec? Well, it's sometimes difficult for us to communicate because I don't speak a lot of French, and her English is not fluent, even though it is very good.

"Well, that's how I become friends with people I've never met: through words."

She obviously didn't quite understand what I meant, judging by her expression.

"There are times when I speak with people who are right next to me, and other times we speak on the phone. But then there are also times when I communicate through my writing, like when I write my blog."

The conversation went in a few different directions there, and we ended up at another interesting point. She asked, "But don't you get to know people better in person?"

I said that I wasn't really sure. For myself, I know that I communicate far better, more clearly, and more truly to who I am when I can think about what I'm going to write. I showed her my notes for this and other articles and explained how I can better express myself when I can organize my thoughts, and even edit them.

This she clearly understood.

And now, all of that has led me back to my original thought from the beginning of that evening, the one I haven't mentioned yet: my gratitude for being allowed to meet so many wonderful people in my life. When I spoke of some of the people for whom I am grateful, I realized that I hadn't met all of them yet, like my friend's parents whom I met later that trip.

This all came up because I mentioned that I am, by nature, an introvert. Given my preference, I would love to sit in a room all day and type, never meeting anyone. But I know that this would not be healthy for me. And so, rather than indulge in a life of solitude, I make sure that I do most of my writing in public, usually in a coffee shop or a library. I ensure that I get out and meet people by working the market, selling my jewelry to real people in person and face to face rather than just through the net.

But I do meet lots of people through the computer.

One person that comes to mind, whom I haven't met, is a Baha'i from Washington, DC. We met because we had both bid on some Baha'i books on Ebay. Through simple e-mails, and even a delightful phone conversation, I feel like I have a good friend there.

Another friend, but this is one whom I have met, is a Baha'i from Congo. She now lives in Winnipeg, and Marielle and I miss her every single day. Despite how late this is in the article, it was her story that started this whole conversation and train of thought. We spoke of our friendship with this woman, and how we got to know her. And all of that led to the simple question above, which was considered quite intensely.

But for now, I'd like to interrupt my train of thought and get back to that story that started all of this, a story of desperation and prayer.

When she was leaving the Congo, Francoise was on a boat filled with refugees. Many of them, as you can imagine, were praying. There were some Christians praying for God to deliver them from the evils of those who hadn't yet found Jesus. There were some Muslims praying to be delivered from the heathen Christians who worshiped "a false God".

Aside - It reminded me of that story of the shipwreck and the Jew, the Christian and the Muslim who were in the lifeboat together. The Christian prayed to be delivered from the Muslim, and the Muslim prayed to be delivered from the Christian. The Jew remained silent as these two called aloud their prayers to the heavens. Finally the two turned to the Jewish man and asked why he wasn't praying. He said that he was. "I am praying for God to answer both of your prayers."

So there was our poor friend, stuck on a boat with lots and lots of people, in great danger, I think from the boat capsizing or something. I never did quite understand. But I understood that there was great danger. And all of a sudden a very dangerous water viper jumped into the boat. People were screaming, and many jumped overboard, so terrified of the snake that they ignored the death that was waiting for them in the water. But Francoise closed her eyes and kept on praying.

Finally there was silence.

And when she opened her eyes, she said, she practically alone on the boat, and the snake was gone.

So what does this have to with applying the Baha'i Faith? Well, again, I wanted to tell a story that I liked. But I was also thinking about how I met a dear friend.

And that raised the question, "How do you make a friend?" And that led to the question asked by my Mom-in-Law.

Maybe later this week I'll write a bit more about friendship, after all, friendship should be shown in deeds, not words alone. And to answer the question from the very beginning, you can meet people in many different ways, many of which are not actually face to face.

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