There was a fellow I met in college whose name I no longer recall.

He was the friend of a friend or something like that and 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.

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 lift. With gas prices in the early days of the 80s, that twenty bucks meant at least a week of driving around—not like today where even taking a small vehicle to the gas pumps gets you well over that amount. 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 and said: 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.

So always, since the hot summer of 1980, I’ve had a twenty hidden somewhere connected to my car. It didn’t matter if I was struggling financially or if I was flush, the twenty remained in my glovebox, purse, checkbook, wallet, or the present hiding place—my phone case.

Had I realized I’d still be doing this nearly forty years later, in my neurotic way I would have noted the year I used the bill, the need that made me retrieve it from its hidden place, use it, and replace it over the decades.

I know that that sole bill served multiple purposes from, most likely, filling an empty gas tank, to enabling me to splurge on lattes with a friend on that last day before the paycheck came. What that stashed bill has always done is give me a modicum of security—always being there, always available, always ready to help me out of a jam.

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

Cell phone wallet

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 right there, 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 might know—well, of course they know—that we are a bit wacky around the edges, that we don’t unfailingly make the right decisions, that we don’t remember to say thank you, and sometimes forget to be gracious to them. But they keep loving us.

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

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.

We friends are tucked into special places in each other’s hearts and pulled 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.