Why Good Friends Are Worth Your Thanks, All Year Around

by Brendan Marshall
“Some ships sail the ocean; some ships sail the sea. Some ships are made of metal; some ships are made of wood. But the best ships are friendships, and those mean the most to me.” – Sebastian James Healy

Why am I thankful? What is there to truly celebrate in this world? These questions tend to reappear with each holiday season.

Late November and December is a time to reflect on what the last 11 to 12 months have brought while looking forward to the unknown future.

I love my crazy family to death, but there is another group that sits atop that personal list of important people.

This is a dedication to the people who get us through more than they will ever know and a recognition of friends all over the world who do not get enough credit for their roles in our lives.

A few months ago, I had the privilege of attending a wedding in the city where I grew up. Months in the making, this event doubled as a union and a reunion.

The dance floor was armed with a six-piece band and guests who joined to celebrate. Standing in the back of the banquet room, inside Baltimore’s Belvedere Hotel, something familiar hit me.

Within the flailing crowd stood the collection of a dozen or so men who knew each other since childhood. Those are my boys, the gang, partners in crime, “dons for life.”

They are part of a fraternity that has been fortified throughout decades and continues to strengthen, with each passing year. This was another opportunity to be grateful for each one of them and celebrate what might have otherwise been taken for granted.

More recently, I took a trip to Athens, Georgia for another highly-anticipated event, but instead of an altar and bridal party, there was a football field between the hedges.

Two Georgia natives dragged me along to witness what happens when Auburn comes to Sanford Stadium under the lights.

It was a pleasure to experience this deeply-rooted tradition that was entirely new to my eyes. I met people who can still remember their first SEC football game while wondering what took me so long to see one myself.

A scene as simple as a pair of SUV tailgates, cold beers and a UGA win was powerful enough to unite a crowd. New friendships suddenly formed throughout the course of 48 hours and where they go from here is to be determined.

The ability to call individuals "true friends" is one of life’s most prized possessions. That feeling multiplied dozens of times over is a rare blessing. Friends come in many forms and arrive at all different points in our lives, usually when we least expect it.

The ones we consider “best” play similar roles to our closest family members. We confide secrets, share dreams, dampen shoulders and trust these people with large parts of our well-beings. They teach us to be kind and offer necessary daily doses of reality.

It is my sincere belief that every person we encounter and spend time with is there for a reason. Human beings dissimilar to us offer new outlooks and enlighten lives in incredibly simple, yet powerful ways — no matter how long or short their stay.

Friends are the people we decide to keep around in order to gain perspective and encouragement. Family members are born, adopted or married into your circle, but friends earn the right to stay. Those bonds can provide lifelong benefits of camaraderie.

And so, as I sit somewhere between Texas and Maryland, en route to a week-long homecoming, one thing is clear: No matter what surrounds you, the circumstances you face or who has come and gone, life better with loyal, unconditional friends.

Friends hold us accountable for certain behaviors and offer important lessons. I raise my airplane cup of coffee to each and every one of you and say, “Thanks.”

Remember those who cultivate healthy relationships in your life and that you, too, are that person for others. The world could use the reassurance.

And finally, if you are looking for a reason to pick up the phone and call someone to whom you haven’t spoken in a while, let this be it.