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Let me know if I ever
need to bring a shovel
Presented January 7, 2007, by Anna Wiegenstein &
Are you tired of all those mushy friendship poems that always sound good
but never actually come close to reality? Well, here is a series of
promises that really speaks to true friendship!
1. When you are sad, I will help you plot revenge against the sorry bastard
who made you sad.
2. When you are blue, I will try to dislodge whatever is choking you.
3. When you smile, I will know you finally got laid and give you a high
4. When you are scared, I will rag you about it every chance I get.
5. When you are worried, I will tell you horrible stories about how much
worse it could be and to quit whining.
6. When you are confused, I will use small words and draw pictures to
7. When you are sick, stay the hell away from me until you're well
again. I don't want whatever you have.
8. When you fall, I will point and laugh at your clumsy ass.
This is my oath, I pledge 'til the end. Why, you may ask? Because
you're my friend!
A friend will help you move. A really good friend will help you move a
body. Let me know if I ever need to bring a shovel.
- When we were first asked to speak jointly, Chelsea and I knew
immediately that the perfect opportunity to tell the story of our first
meeting had arrived. And, of course, any story involving this historic
encounter has to also include some dishonesty and deceit.
- Although we had already been aware of each other through orchestra, and
played as something of a team in the viola section, this story begins in
math class. Algebra I, to be specific.
- Two fine, upstanding honor students, lost and adrift in a sea of
incomprehensible equations. The time came to exchange last night's
homework with the person sitting directly behind you, who, that day, just
happened to be her. My mind flooded with panic-I didn't understand
factoring whatsoever, and this chick was sure to fill my worksheet with
- I was also panicked, as I was always too proud to ask for help in math
and had left made-up, if not blank, answers in most of the spaces - I too
didn't understand factoring. So when the time came, one answer
presented itself. I had to ask . . .
- Flipping the worksheet over one shoulder, I was unprepared for the
sharp whisper coming from behind. She said:
- "I'll give you a hundred, if you give me a hundred."
- How could I turn an offer like that down? As some of you may know all
too well, a child doesn't grow morals until 8th grade, at the earliest.
So, I took her up on it. And she's been my best friend ever since.
- In the seven years since then, we've experienced everything that
good friends must experience: crushes on a teacher, unrequited love, all
the drama any typical high school contains-- the best and worst of life
experiences, not to mention nearly getting crushed to death in a few mosh
- Not to mention braving a crowd of over a million people at Disney
World, most of them either children with horns or irate, stroller-pushing
mothers. But, and I have to admitting-I'm bragging a little here:
we've never once gotten into a fight. Chelsea: and I have always been
something of a united front. So, when the time came to head off to that
magical world known as "college," fate thankfully took a hand,
and ended up keeping us together yet again. While I decided basically right
away that Iowa City was the place for me, Chelsea: waited longer to make up
her mind-she even turned in her housing form on the very last day.
- Many people had warned us of the dangers of living with one's best
friend, so we chose not to, and yet still ended up living across the hall
from each other and closer than ever. Sophomore year, we decided that
everyone was wrong and that we could actually live together and remain best
- So far, we have succeeded. When I was scrambling for some catchy phrase
to title this talk with, I remembered the plethora of Internet forwards
dealing with friendship, all with generally the same punchline-the one I
ended up choosing for today's opening words. When I ran it by her, she
seemed content with it.
- I thought, "Wow, how very fitting." We then discussed the
fact that if there was anyone that Anna: thought should be killed, I would
probably think that they should be dead as well. But outside all the
cheating and hypothetical death, our friendship is about maintaining a
trust and loyalty that evolves with us, through junior high hijinks to
college and beyond! Although we experienced girl-drama and annoyances with
other friends, we've always been able to detour around it and laugh
about it together.
- Which, obviously, many of you can relate to. Arthur Brisbane once said,
"The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical
substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed." Likewise,
the idea of transplanting our relationship from high school to college
seemed to be a huge transformation-one that I was a bit wary of, at first.
However, being away from home for first time, one becomes aware that the
friendships formed at school soon become a second form of family. Can't
call home about a problem? Head down the dorm hall, and there's a
waiting support network for you. Connections like these can be formed and
relied on throughout life-what my aunt often refers to as "the urban
family." Sometimes because these friends are living out the very
moments you are, their advice is more helpful from even the best intended
advice from friends or family in other places-be it anything from a
specific class-related issue up through more serious issues you just
can't imagine broaching with a parental unit.
- It's amazing how different college friends are from high-school
friends. In high school, I realized I was friends with a lot of people
simply because I had to be with them all the time. Some I may have known
since kindergarten but never got to know or trust them until I was a
senior. College friends are so much more organic and it's amazing how
quickly you can learn to trust someone that you've only known for a
month. When my father died my first year of college, all my friends from
school were willing to make the 2-hour trek to be there for his funeral
when many of them had only met him once or twice. Many of my high school
friends sent an e-mail or card of condolence, but were absent at the
service. My friends from college were there for me during the hardest time
in my life and have since been my support and have been my bandages during
the healing process.
- One of the things I admire most about my parents has been their ability
to maintain friendships formed as far back as childhood, regularly
exchanging Christmas cards and e-mails with people they knew before I even
existed. I hope to take after them in this respect-it would be amazing to
think that 20 years down the line, I could still have people to reminisce
over my days at Iowa with. This summer we went to England on vacation where
my mom visited her best friend from her Iowa days-a friendship of over 30
years. They hadn't seen each other since my parents wedding, 25 years
ago, but there they were laughing at the memories that both still had over
insanely trivial things. Of course, that's rather premature thinking
right now. But not too long ago, a friend stopped by my room to freak out
over "the rest of his life," and the people in it-were the
relationships he was currently forming really the ones he wanted to look
back on? I couldn't see what had him so wound up, but calmed him down
the best I could, anyway. Recently, a high school friend of both Chelsea:
and I recently began writing in an online journal-one clearly accessible to
anyone and everyone-about how isolated she was feeling from her dearly
beloved QHS alumni, of which we were two she mentioned by name. Yet, she
never made the obvious move of actually contacting either of us. For both
of them, the solution seems clear-either put in the effort of maintaining a
quality friendship, or don't. We're no longer obligated to befriend
people simply because they're always around. It would be interesting to
know what causes these connections to form and to last, despite
- Although friendships may take a little bit of effort to maintain - it
takes an email or a phone call to keep in touch - it doesn't feel like
you're taking time out of a busy schedule to do it - you do it because
you genuinely love that person and could spend three hours on the phone
discussing one memory. In calling Anna: at night, we would usually find
ourselves reminiscing about one of our many so-called
"incidents." These incidents usually involved embarrassment,
hysterical laughter and a summary that can only be prefaced with "you
had to be there." These ranged from the "gym shorts
incident" to the "lemon slush incident." Of course such
"code names" don't mean anything to you, much like they
don't mean much to the mutual friends we've made at college; this
can pose a challenge in attempting to share a memory with another friend.
You know you have a special friendship when inside jokes from years ago can
still make you laugh. However, bringing them up in the presence of other
friends is something to steer clear of - that's what makes them special
- they are memories that can only be relived in the minds of the two
friends that experienced them and no one else.
- It seems fairly basic to me-when you're in a healthy relationship
with someone, be it familial, romantic, or platonic, the "work"
shouldn't feel like "work." I've never felt it an
inconvenience to learn what Chelsea: likes, for example, in order to hunt
down a Christmas present, just like it's not a struggle to sit down at
the end of a day and spend an hour on the phone with my parents. Besides,
the benefits are awesome.
- The great thing about keeping up with a close friend is sharing old
memories, along with making new ones. You know that if you've forgotten
something, the other person will certainly remember it.
- Even if you'd really, really rather forget it.
- Great relationships can pick up again after any amount of time has
passed; catching up is effortless and never awkward - there's always
something to say. I've encountered many friends and have had
uncomfortable conversations consisting of "Hey!!" and "How
are you?" and nothing else except a head nod and feigned excitement. A
Czech proverb states that, "You can make more friends in two months by
becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to
get other people interested in you." It's unfortunate that you
think you've made such good friends in high school, but when you see
them again after a year or so, notice all they want to talk about are their
wild college stories and aren't really interested in how you've
been. It's applicable to everyone - taking an honest interest in a
person can make a good friend out of a stranger; it worked for me in
college and has already paid off.
- Type in "friendship" in any online quote generator, and a
vast multitude of scholars are included-everyone from Emerson, to Socrates,
to Jay Leno. It may or may not have been where we gleaned our sudden
knowledge of Czech proverbs, not to give anything away. So, we'd like
to close today with a challenge. That best friend of yours from high
school. The guy you recall as being "so nice" during grad work.
Give 'em a call. Such outreaches certainly improve day-to-day life, if
not one's karma along with it. The Christmas spirit recently inspired
my mother to do just that, calling up a friend she felt had been estranged
from her for over 10 years, only to learn, sadly, that it had been illness,
not anger, providing the communication block. The re-establishment of their
relationship made this year's holiday extra special to both her and my
- I recently reconnected with my best friend that moved in 4th grade. It
was amazing how easily we picked back up where we left off and how much we
could recall about our times together. We were genuinely interested in each
others' lives and it was exciting to keep in touch. It certainly made
my day and made me feel so glad that someone thought I was worth
remembering just as I think she is.
- It never hurts to have more people on your team. Plus, you know, you
never know when you might have to call in that shovel-bringer, after
- The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of
Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this
- Lloyd, Chelsea and Wiegenstein, Anna. 2007. Let me know if I ever
need to bring a shovel, http://www.uuquincy.org
(accessed April 20, 2019).
The Quincy Unitarian Church Home
The list of Selected Sermons.