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Giving thanks for a generous friend

Thanksgiving is always a day for reflection and for counting one’s blessings. Typically we focus on the most immediate aspects of our lives – family, health, home, and our livelihood. Although we appreciate good friends in our lives, I’m not sure how often we give thanks for having them.

Good friends are a treasure and a gift, and sometimes, if we are lucky, an inspiration. Although I lost my good friend Caryn to cancer over ten years ago, she still continues to guide my actions and I continue to be grateful for her positive influence on my life. And so this Thanksgiving I want to reflect on what her friendship has meant to me and how she exemplified the essence of generosity.

Although we lived half a continent apart, we visited whenever we could. On those rare get-togethers I always got to witness some act of pure generosity on her part. After seeing this on different occasions, I suddenly realized that this was not just a matter of coincidental timing, but rather the way she lived her life on a daily basis.

Caryn was always looking out for others and always striving to make life better for others. Let me give just a few examples.

During one visit we were walking down to the ocean when she stopped at a bike shop to check up on some repairs that she was having done on a couple of two-wheelers. When I joked that she and her husband were now taking up some serious cycling, she told me that she was having the bikes upgraded so she could give them to needy children that Christmas. (By the way, if I hadn’t asked, she would never have said anything.)

Another time when we were off to watch her son play field hockey in another part of the city,she prepared some sandwiches to take with us. I wondered out loud how long we would be gone and she replied that the food was for the homeless who frequented that area of the city. When I expressed my approval, she told me that she often forfeited her lunch when she saw someone who needed it more. Then she chuckled and told me that one time she offered a fellow her bag lunch and he in turn offered her a half-eaten burger, which she politely declined.

On yet another visit, she gathered up all her old towels and we took them to a cleaning station where ducks that had been caught in an oil spill were being washed, fed and housed until they could be returned to the wild. (Apparently not only humans were the recipients of her generous nature.)

She knew all her neighbours and made sure that they (especially the lonely ones) received regular trays of treats or bowls of homemade soup. And when her own mother was in a nursing home, she made sure to chat with all the residents (again, especially the lonely ones).

Caryn had this uncanny ability to figure out what people needed the most and then she just went and provided whatever it was. Most of the time it was not about money, but about time and thoughtfulness. Her warm and friendly nature quickly and easily cheered up many a person.

I could go on and on about her generosity, but I think you get the idea. What amazed me the most was that she herself was often not that well, but she rarely talked about her own health issues, choosing instead to focus on the needs of others.

If I can be half as thoughtful as she was, I will be doing wonderful deeds. And if you are lucky enough to have half the friend that she was, then you are truly blessed. May we all not only have that friend, but be one as well.

Happy Thanksgiving!