About 25 years ago I was invited to a birthday party for my friend Louis, a mentor and a man I greatly respected. Although I was in my mid 20’s and he seemed quite old, (I’m guessing he was around 70), I was excited to attend his party. Louis told me that this party was ‘a small gathering for his closest friends’. I was living in Los Angeles and the party was being held in Las Vegas, but I didn’t want to miss it so I made the arrangements to travel to be there.
I’ll never forget walking into the room, filled with more than 1000 people- all there to celebrate Louis’ birthday. It took me 20 minutes just to find him in the crowd! Thinking this would be an intimate gathering, I asked him, “Louis, I thought you were only inviting your closest friends to this party?”
He smiled, gave me a hug and then said words I will never forget. His response was, “I did. Everyone in this room IS a close friend of mine. If I were arrested, thrown into jail and needed someone to bring $10,000 to bail me out at 2am, I could call anyone in this room and they’d be there- just as I would be there for them.” He could tell that I was a bit surprised and perhaps a bit doubtful.
Being the wise mentor that he was, Louis continued by sharing that while all of his friends had spent the last 50 years gathering material possessions, mistresses, or awards, he’d spent his time collecting the only thing that ever matters- friends. He told me that whenever he came across a “keeper”, their name went into the Rolodex and they were “stuck with him for life”. Being Louis’ friend was a long-term commitment.
What I learned from Louis that afternoon has stayed with me for the past 25 years. Friends are the only commodity you can’t trade, sell or barter. They are more valuable than gold, possessions and accomplishments. As we get older they only become more valuable. You can’t buy them. The only way that you can get one is to first BE one. And when you find the “keepers”, put them in a very special place in your life, stay in touch with them, love them, celebrate and play with them and most of all, be there for them. That alone will pay great dividends as we age.
So thank you Louis, not only for being my friend, but for teaching me one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned. Twenty-five years later, I’ve now passed the 50 year-old mark. Seventy no longer seems as old as it did when I was in my 20’s. And throughout the last 25 years I’ve taken your advice and have built an address book of hundreds of friends that I love and adore. These are my “keepers”. I don’t ever hope to call any of them at 2am asking for $10k for bail money, but if I had to, I’m sure at least one of them would show up. :)
No matter your age or circumstances, I highly recommend you also take Louis’ advice. Leave the material things to others and go for what’s valuable in life- collect memories and collect friends. Maybe on your 70th birthday you too can invite 1000 close friends and have them all be thrilled to be there to celebrate your special day. And the first step to accomplishing that, is to start by BEING a friend first.
To our InspireMeToday community, thank you for your friendship, love and support. You guys are keepers. :)