On Being A Supportive Friend

By Mark Walters spctrm_mar2016-11

It’s sad how much more self-centered people become as they get older. Person A wants support from Persons B through Z but doesn’t make time to support them in return. Everyone wants to succeed but it’s rare to find someone who invests in others’ work as much as their own. Social media has become a substitute for hands on, human involvement; it's a faster way to “promote” whatever you wish.

I can’t blame people, though. After a while, college loses its novelty and at times it becomes really depressing. We overload ourselves to stay busy, to stay ahead, and to prepare. There’s been a paradigm shift in the concept of free time for people in college. Free time is now unusual and unsettling. We as students become so sucked into what we’re doing that, to suspend the overwhelming reality of it all, we go on autopilot and focus on what we need to get done. Of course you're your first priority at all times because mental health is more relevant to college students than anything. Taking care of yourself comes first.

One of the ways we maintain good mental health is through our friends and acquaintances, people who take time out of there day to talk to us, to help us with homework, to have a good time with, to just be with. Our friends are our most accessible support systems at college because they live in this community with us.

However, there’s another kind of support that gets lost in translation amongst the studying, homework, due dates and meetings: supporting your friends’ passions. Whether they play basketball, sing in gospel choir, invite you to Street Ministry, or want to publicly read a poem they wrote, they all matter regardless of the outcome. And I’m not talking about just verbal encouragement and affirmation.  I’m talking about actually being present with them when they are engaging their passions.

Why does this kind of support matter? Because in the midst of all the stressful, overwhelming and upsetting aspects of being in college, we all have our releases. We anxiously await those moments, the next game, the next show, the first meeting of a new organization on campus. Our passions, these are our escapes from the craziness of school, and we want to share those passions with our friends. Being present to support your friends in their endeavors makes all the dreadful parts of school worth it.

For instance, being in a band and knowing many people in bands in the same music scene as me, I know that having people come out to your shows is challenging. Not only does it mean the band has an audience, but even more important than that, it fosters a community of supportive and curious people.  Whether it’s an organization, a music scene, or super fans, there’s a life blood to every kind of community and it’s the people in it.

So instead of thinking about supporting your friend by going to their baseball game as a chore, remember you’re also helping their community which benefits so many other people, too. Don’t be tricked into thinking you aren’t helping anybody and fall into the “young voters delusion” because you’re only “one person.” Bring a friend or two. You’ll start to see how much happier that community of people is as there are more and more people coming out to take interest in what they are doing.

Clearly, people shouldn't get involved in everything they possibly can, because then you’d get burnt out and not want to do anything. Pick one or two things.  Figure out which of your friends is really putting themselves out there and ask them when their next event is coming up. They’ll be happy you asked. Then make time to go to that thing and maybe bring a friend or two and help grow that community. Not only is it supportive to your friend and that community, but it’s also healthy for you. Knowing that you are helping to breathe life into a community or organization by actually being there feels really good. So don’t be afraid to hit the brakes on your school work every once in awhile if it means supporting someone you’d expect support from too.