There was a fellow I met in college whose name I know longer recall.

This friend of a friend needed a ride to the train station. The mutual friend wasn’t available, and it was less than an hour’s drive from my apartment, so I offered to give him a lift to catch the train. 

I was the proverbial starving student, working through college at minimum wage jobs, living on student loans, egg salad, and tuna fish. I couldn’t go near either food for a decade following graduation, but they were cheap. Pennies counted. Okay, quarters, but you get the idea. I was poor.

He was a college graduate, working full time and doing well financially. As we talked during our drive, he insisted that I take a twenty-dollar tip for giving him a ride. With gas prices in the early days of the 1980s, twenty bucks meant multiple weeks driving around. We had a huge debate about me accepting money for the act I chose to do out of kindness. He finally stuffed the bill in the glove box. You may not need it now, but you will some time. Keep it in the car or your wallet, tucked away and it will always be there.

Carrying on the tradition

Since the hot summer of 1980, I’ve had a twenty hidden somewhere connected to my car. Struggling financially or flush, the twenty remained in my glovebox, purse, checkbook, wallet, or the present hiding place…. 

Had I realized I’d be doing this forty years later, in my neurotic way I would have noted the year I used the bill and the need for retrieving it.

That bill served multiple purposes from, filling the gas tank, to me splurging on drinks with a friend the night before payday. What that stashed bill has done is give me a modicum of security—being there, available, ready to help me out of a jam.

That twenty dollar bill is a lot like having a good friend. 

You know the kind of person I’m talking about. The folks we keep tucked into a crevasse in our lives, knowing they are invariably prepared to be pulled out to support us at a moment’s notice. Those are the friends who love us without fail and without question. They know we are a wacky around the edges and that we don’t unfailingly make the right decisions. Friends accept when we don’t remember to say thank you or forget to be gracious to them. But they keep loving us.

—wCell phone wallet

Which, psst, means they are wacky, too. Right?

Maintaining our friendships

I love sending cards—randomly as the mood strikes, birthdays, the arrival of spring, the celebration of anything. The Christmas holidays usually sees me mailing about sixty cards. I write notes in them, in some I include letters, maybe that one I tuck in a photo, another I draw funny faces with colored pens. I’ve collected friends from living in different states, from traveling to different countries, from writing, from working, from a longing to have friendships.

Each person got pulled into my orbit and I into theirs. With everyone I’ve kept over the decades, I wonder why I can’t remember $20-bill-man’s-name. We were only in the same stratosphere for a short time and yet look at the impact he’s had on my life.

We tuck friends into special places in each other’s hearts, pulling them out at the right time for the right purpose for the right need that only that friendship can provide—which can be something as simple as filling one another’s laughter quota for a day.

I think I’ll start looking at that twenty in my phone case in a whole new light—letting it remind me of the great friends my life has been blessed with since 1980 and beyond.


Read: The Gift of Friendship