There is never a wrong time to pick up a phone, or to send a message, telling a friend how much you miss them or how much you care about them.

This essay, sent to me nearly 20 years ago, tells us “No matter where we go or who we become, never forget who helped us get there.” As we approach this joyous holiday season, perhaps you will enjoy and find inspiration in “Friendship…what is it?”

1. In kindergarten your idea of a good friend was the person who let you have the red crayon when all that was left was the ugly black one.

2. In the first grade your idea of a good friend was the person who went to the bathroom with you and held your hand as you walked through the scary halls.

3. In the second grade your idea of a good friend was the person who helped you stand up to the class bully.

4. In the third grade your idea of a good friend was the person who shared their lunch with you when you forgot yours on the bus.

5. In the fourth grade your idea of a good friend was the person who was willing to switch square dancing partners in gym so you wouldn’t have to be stuck do-si-do-ing with Nasty Nick or Smelly Susan.

6. In the fifth grade your idea of a good friend was the person who saved a seat in the back of the bus for you.

7. In the sixth grade your idea of a good friend was the person who went up to Nick or Susan, your new crush, and asked them to dance with you so that if they said no, you wouldn’t have to be embarrassed.

8. In seventh grade your idea of a good friend was the person who let you copy the social studies homework from the night before.

9. In eighth grade your idea of a good friend was the person who helped you pack up your stuffed animals and old baseball cards so that your room would be a “high schooler’s” room, but didn’t laugh at you when you finished and broke out into tears.

10. In ninth grade your idea of a good friend was the person who went to that “cool” party thrown by a senior so you wouldn’t wind up being the only freshman there.

11. In the 10th grade your idea of a good friend was the person who changed their schedule so you would have someone to sit with at lunch.

12. In 11th grade your idea of a good friend was the person who gave you rides in their new car, convinced your parents that you shouldn’t be grounded, consoled you when you broke up with Nick or Susan, and found you a date to the prom.

13. In the 12th grade your idea of a good friend was the person who helped you pick out a college, assured you that you would get into that college, helped you deal with your parents who were having a hard time adjusting to the idea of letting you go.

14. At graduation your idea of a good friend was the person who was crying on the inside, but managed the biggest smile one could give as they congratulated you.

15. The summer after twelfth grade your idea of a good friend was the person who helped you clean up the mess from that party, helped you sneak out of the house when you just couldn’t deal with your parents, assured you that now that you and Nick/Susan were back together, you could make it through anything, helped you pack up for college and just silently hugged you as you looked through blurry eyes at 18 years of memories you were leaving behind.

16. Now, your idea of a good friend is still the person who gives you the better of the two choices, holds your hand when you are scared, helps you fight off those who try to take advantage of you, thinks of you at times when you are not there, reminds you of what you have forgotten, helps you put the past behind you, but understands when you need to hold onto it a little longer.

Your friends stay with you so that you have confidence, goes out of their way to make time for you, helps you clear up your mistakes, helps you deal with pressure from others, smiles for you when they are sad, helps you become a better person, and most importantly, loves you.

Whether you just recently graduated from school, or graduated 20, 30 or 50 years ago, I think you can remember who that friend was at each stage of your life.

Make their day. Call them today or write them a letter. Update: send them a tweet or friend them on Facebook.

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If you want to test your memory, try to remember what you were worrying about one year ago today.

A Japanese proverb warns us: “The reputation of a lifetime may be determined by our conduct of one hour.”

There is a time in life of every problem when it is big enough to see, yet small enough to solve.

A man’s greatest strength develops at the point where he overcomes his greatest weakness.