Growing up in Appleton, Wisconsin, I never felt out of place, even though I was the only one of my friends with immigrant parents. As most friends would, they never made me feel weird or uncomfortable about my differences and were always patient and supportive of me and my family. Truthfully, I couldn’t have asked for a better set of friends during my middle and high school years. But as some friendships do, we drifted apart as high school transitioned into college, and we all went our separate ways.
Don’t get me wrong, I made new and equally great friends in college, but as another graduation came and went, I slowly began to enter yet another new chapter of life. As a result, those college friendships took a backburner to the new friends I made through my career, my marriage to Maria, our children and our community.
It’s never the intention to grow apart. As kids, we don’t hope to lose contact with our best friends, but life happens, and everyone drifts down their varying paths toward different goals, dreams and aspirations. However, despite the separation, that common bond and shared friendship remains. True friendship can withstand the test of time, meaning that regardless of how intimidating it can seem, it’s never too late to rekindle a friendship and truly be there for a friend in time of need.
Jeni was a great friend of mine growing up in Appleton. As was the case with plenty of my friends, we lost touch as we aged. Not too long ago, Jeni reached out to me on behalf of her husband, as he was looking into a possible career change. He and I scheduled a lunch to sit down and talk business, jobs and all things careers, but ultimately discovered we had a lot in common.
A year or two later, Jeni reached back out to plan a lunch of our own. I walked into that lunch with a mental list of a thousand things to do, but upon arriving and seeing the bandana on Jeni’s head, I quickly forgot everything that needed to be done and gave my undivided attention to Jeni and her story. In a nutshell, Jeni was battling breast cancer. Our conversation touched on her story and struggles with cancer, but Jeni wasn’t looking for someone to talk with about doctor’s appointments, tests, scans, surgeries and sickness. Instead, we talked for over an hour about friends, kids, and relationships in general. We talked so much, you’d never have known we hadn’t spoken in years. Our friendship picked up right where it left off, but this time around, she gave me so much more than I could have ever hoped for from a friend.
Never mind that Jeni has been brave enough to guest blog for Medix and share her breast cancer journey to help build awareness, but she introduced my wife and I to a wonderful organization, The Wellness House. Maria was on a quest to find her own purpose in life, and during her own lunch with Jeni, she shared her story about losing her mom to cancer when she was young. My wife has always had a special passion to help kids going through similar situations to what she faced. Jeni told Maria about The Turtle Group at The Wellness House. The Turtle Group is a group of kids who have parents going through or have passed because of cancer. The puzzle pieces for Maria’s purpose were falling into place, and as a result of Jeni, she is now fortunate enough to devote one day a week to making an impact with the kids in The Turtle Group. Not only did Jeni help Maria find her purpose, but she helped me find another cause that I’m extremely passionate about and now have the opportunity to serve on their board.
Fast forward to a recent gala for The Wellness House, I found myself taken aback after glancing around the room. There was my beautiful wife, friends and family from my community, work friends and Medix family, and then Jeni – my friend from middle school. All our worlds’ collided because of one thing: purpose. Jeni showed up for me and brought us all together, under one roof to celebrate a wonderful cause and for that, I could never thank her enough. Jeni is proof that no matter what is going on in life, and no matter how far apart your friendship has drifted, it’s never too late to show up for a friend.