How To Be A (Better) Friend From Afar

gift bag with pink roses in a white too,m

I have some amazing friends, and they live all over the place. I want to be a better friend to them, no matter where we live.

Many of them live far away.

I know their kids, spouses, and the hashtags they’re likely to use (or not). I’ve known them since their spouses first joined the Army, through 6 moves and almost as many deployments, school, leaving the service, or even leaving their marriages. 

In many cases, I’ve never met them in person.  

I know their talents, humor, favorite colors, inside jokes, and pets. One group of moms and I even have a yearly tradition of a Valentine’s gift swap, so I even know what’s on their Amazon wish list.

shadow of a person isolatedI’m thinking of my more distant friends today because one of my newer military spouse friends is fighting for her life. COVID crept into her family’s lives and mostly just touched them a little, but she is really, really sick.  And I’m feeling helpless. I think our whole group is.  

What can I DO?

How do you help a friend who lives at a distance but needs your hands-on friendship?

We are working to send her family gift cards for groceries to cover some basic needs, so they’ll know they’re supported by her group.  But if we were friends in the old-fashioned sense, it would be easier to address needs as they came up: childcare, pet care, dropping off specific items as they came up, etc. 

I have not always been the best friend during times of need. I’m not the most consistent at showing up at someone’s door with exactly the right words or help or support.  I’ve been reflecting on Dolly Parton’s song “When Life is Good Again” and the kind of person and friend I want to be right now because frankly, we don’t know if or when things will be “good” again. I think we need to begin this now.

So here are some things we can do to be better friends and neighbors and citizens. 

Some of these are ways we can help people if we are miles apart, because we have lived in a socially distanced world since long before that term was in our everyday vernacular. Whether you are close in distance or spanning the globe, add a few of these to your actions as you try to be the best friend you can be.

  • We can send Door Dash (or a similar service) when our friend needs a pizza night.
  • We can send gifts to their kids as a distraction.
  • We can print out comics and send hand-written notes because even when the mail service is slow, happy mail is still welcome.
  • We can find videos they might enjoy and send them links.
  • We can share Spotify playlists of songs that remind us of our shared friendship.
  • We can be there on the phone. Often, the most needed thing is a chance to be honest and raw, and we can let them vent it all out without judgment.
  • We can order something at Target or another store and tell our friends to “go pick it up” as a surprise. Or maybe we can have a favorite book, lotion, candle, or candy mailed directly to them.

gift bag with pink roses in a white too,mWe are military spouses, right?  We know how to box up things for our Soldiers, make ourselves available at a moment’s notice for Skype or messenger or random phone calls, and stay in touch with our families far from home. 

Sometimes, though, I think we neglect our friends when we are distanced; if we can’t hang out together, we forget that there are things other than Facebook posts or Instagram likes that we can do to solidify those bonds and really support each other.

The military gives us the chance to form great friendships, and sometimes we have to be creative and deliberate in how we care for them.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not waiting until life is “good” again to be a better friend from afar.  I need to do something to make it good, right now.

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Casey Fogle
Casey is the wife of a 25-year Army Veteran, still living in Central Texas where the Army whims blew them. They have spent the last 5 years trying to decide what to do next. She is a mental health advocate, Mom-supporter, and connection-maker whose jobs all fell under "community" in one way or another. Two adult daughters have reassured her that they weren't too scarred by the fact that she always felt, and still feels, like she is winging it daily. Nothing is more exciting to her than sharing something via writing or speaking, and having someone tell her, "I thought it was just me" or that they feel seen and understood in a way they hadn't been before.