What are the things you love about a good friendship? Maybe your list looks something like mine:
Laughter. Settlers of Catan. Beer. Wings. Good coffee. Singing loudly to songs we pretend to hate but secretly love. Spontaneous adventures. Inside jokes. Watching "Anchorman" for the twentieth time. Texting ridiculous memes to each other. Bacon. Bubbles. Bad dancing. Speaking only in movie quotes. Late-night runs for disgusting food. Doing nothing and loving it.
Oh, and helping each other move.
I know. I know all about the drawbacks: Getting up early. Giving up a day off. Moving heavy objects. Moving objects that can't be carried in a non-awkward fashion. Sweating (and why do people always move in the summer?). Innumerable trips back and forth between the house and the truck, sometimes up and down a flight or two of stairs. Discovering weird items you weren't supposed to find but your friends haven't packed up everything yet. Oh, and did I mention sweating?
Despite all of that, I'd like to make a case that helping a friend move is actually a blessing. And not only for the friend, but for you.
I get it--since I graduated from high school, I've moved ten times. Every time I move, I send out an email or make some phone calls, almost apologetically, nearly begging, to ask people to help me move. I've recruited many friends to toil in the heat and humidity and deal with my lack of organization, dust bunnies, and oddly-shaped furniture. Once, I lost the key to my storage unit on moving day and had my friends drive me across town so I could find it. Fortunately, they suppressed the urge to murder me and stuck with me for the rest of the day. I tried to appease their wrath with an offering of kind-of-just-okay pizza from around the corner of my new place, but I suspect they still fight back the occasional impulse to slap me in the face from time to time.
I realize that helping a friend move, for all of us, has been a necessary evil that we bear through as part of "the deal" if we're to be friends. The more and more I've been presented with the opportunity to help a friend move, though, the more I've undergone a change of heart.
It's easy to be a "great" friend when we're talking movie night or grilling out. You don't have to twist my arm to go hiking or wine tasting, take a trip to the beach, meet up to watch a football game, or celebrate a birthday. Those things are easy and how we experience friendship 90% of the time. Those moments, those good times, those fluid and seamless interactions are necessary for a thriving friendship. But you never really know how strong your friendship is until tough times arrive.
We're not often presented with the opportunity to really prove how much we love our friends, to go beyond the easy stuff. That's a good thing, by the way--I don't go around hoping that my friends will go through really tough times. So when someone asks for help moving, I jump at the chance to be there. Very few things speak to how much you love someone more than freely and gladly offering to help take on a tough burden.
The last thing I'd want you to do is to take this post too literally and feel like I'm only talking about moving, or talking about it in a compulsory way. The fact is, some of us shouldn't or can't help friends move. There's an article I love by Anne Lamott in which she argues that no woman over the age of 40 should have to help anyone move ever again. But they could offer to bring sandwiches and drinks for the folks who can help move.
What really matters is this: we should all be looking for ways to really show our friends we love them. Some of the best opportunities to do so present themselves not in the perfect, summer sunset of a family picnic, but in the tough, gritty work of laboring with our friends in the trenches of their lives: taking their crazy kids for a night so they can recharge, driving them around when their car is in the shop, sitting with them until well past your bedtime because they need to unload their problems for a while.
We can't plan a lot of these opportunities. Sometimes there are seasons where they're abundant, and sometimes there are seasons when they're few and far between. So when a friend calls me up and asks, "Hey, would you be able to help me move?" I consider myself blessed to be able to let that person know just how much they mean to me.