Joanne Gallacher
By Joanne Gallacher

Real friends: The value of true friendship

Value of true friendship 

A fascinating discussion on the radio got me thinking this week, it was all about real friends. The presenter was debating the issue of "friends". The topic was extremely interesting and I found myself gripped when she brought up the subject of how friends help you in a crisis.

One listener recounted her battle with breast cancer - thankfully she's now in remission. She said the best thing a friend did for her was buy a  prosthetic breast. She says she wears it still and she was touched by her friend's act of kindness


Of course this is quite a big gesture but it never ceases to amaze me how some of the so called "sisterhood" battle against each other - especially in our (hour of need).

What many of our regular listeners/visitors won't know, is that I recently lost my Mum and my daughters a much loved Grandmother. During this difficult and quite frankly horrendous time I was helped by some amazing friends. To coin a phrase from my late Mum: "You find out who your real friends are when the chips are down".

For me, the greatest help I received was from the friends who turned up with food for my family and I. It really was much appreciated. I was walking around in a fog, dashing around from one appointment to another but my girls still needed to eat and so did I. Food is the nourishment of the soul and the last thing I needed was to get ill. And let's face it, when somebody close is extremely ill you are the last person YOU think about. One friend travelled 90  miles to turn up on my doorstep with a bag of food and an offer to do the ironing.

The goodies they brought ensured we didn't start looking like a tin of beans - the husband's stock meal by the way! Another dear friend phoned me up with numbers for help and advice - she knew if she'd just passed the relevant information on I would never have got in touch. Then there was the friend in shining armour - she told me she would be picking the 6-year-old daughter up from school and she would be staying for her tea. Yes, she was that blunt but it really helped as I think you'd gladly smile and say everything's fine when it clearly isn't. Plus, on the day of my Mum's funeral she told me she had the childcare all in hand and I was not to worry about it.

I also had supportive hugs and words of wisdom from Mums at the school gate too. Mums I'd only known for a short amount of time sent lovely texts, I had gifts and cards and even my nails done for free to give me a relaxing break and half an hour of "me time". How lucky am I to have friends like these?

However, it wasn't just about big gestures and presents. It was lovely just to be asked "How are you?". I know for some people who don't know me well, my Mum is just a shawdowy figure. She's merely a title within my family but for me she wasn't, she was my MUM. My lovely, annoying, infurtiatingly always right, always there for me MUM. I feel as though I've lost my safety net - I could always rely on her to pull me up and bail me out. Time to stand on my own two feet now.

I have good friends and family to help me and yes I've been surprised and quite frankly hurt by the reaction from some but surprised and blessed by the gestures from the majority. We can all ask a friend if they need anything. Most of us have uttered the words "let me know if I can help". On the surface this seems like a simple and well meaning statement - and it is - but it puts the onus on the person who really does need help at that moment in time. The person who feels they are drowning in a sea of emotion, the person who feels like screaming  is rarely the person who will reach out and ask for help. It's just another thing they have to do in their crisis strewn life. At the risk of sounding ungrateful empty pledges of help are just that - empty!

Next time you have a friend in need bake them an apple pie - they can always freeze it or even offer to take their dog for a walk - it's one less chore they need to think about and really makes a difference for your friend on that given day. Of course we all lead busy lives and for those who are unable to physically help, a simple text to let someone know you are thinking of them is much appreciated - take it from one who knows, when someone reaches out to you it helps so much. I'll never forget those amazing ladies and close family members who were there for me in my hours of need.

They also made me see after years and years of friendship just how much I mean to them and them to me. A while ago now, I remember a very close friend of mine asking me what she could get a neighbour who'd recently had a baby. When I suggested taking around food she laughed and thought I was mad or something.

However, just a few years on and with a daughter of her own, she admits food was a good suggestion. You know what, she was also one of my great pals who came round with a shopping bag full of food and goodies. It's funny how things come around - 'tis the circle of life! When friends have problems, don't assume they don't need your help or that everything's fine. It isn't, this is when they need you most, regardless of how big their family is or how easy you think they're dealing with things. Take it from me, they need you now. X

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