Remembering American Military Veterans on this Memorial Day (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

American Flag at Snellville, Georgia, May 26, 2014

American Flag at Snellville, Georgia, May 26, 2014

My son put out the American flag today, in special remembrance of America’s military veterans and in celebration of Memorial Day 2014.  Putting out the flag has become somewhat of a tradition for him throughout the past few years, particularly since it was a requirement for one of his achievements as a Cub Scout.  Today, he put out the flag as a new Boy Scout.  Last evening, my family also watched the Memorial Day tribute celebration on television, as broadcasted by PBS.  That has also been a tradition in my family for many years.  This year is the 25th anniversary of the annual Memorial Day broadcast.

In remembrance of military veterans in my family, I have authored this article, having arranged photos and/or memorabilia of all of those known family members and/or ancestors who have served in the American military.  I am thankful for those who have risked their lives and/or who have given their lives for the freedoms that I enjoy.

One important issue to keep in mind, however, is that our freedoms may be our right, but should also be practiced with appropriate reason and rationalization.  I stated this, particularly due to interpretations of the Second Amendment of our country’s Constitution, in regard to the right to bear arms.  We should all keep in mind that while we have a right to bear arms, that does not mean that we have the right to take another’s life, unless circumstances absolutely warrant it in matters of self-protection.  Let us not allow the right to bear arms, as well as monetary-backed interests to that aim, to remain more important than protecting people’s lives.

May we all strive to live together in peace and harmony.  Let us all remember the sacrifices of those who serve and who have served in our military forces so that not only our freedoms are maintained, but so that the spirit of democracy may infuse those in other countries, as well.  May our military forces stationed in Afghanistan soon return home, and back to our wonderful democracy!

Memorial Postcard in Remembrance of the American Civil War, 1861-1865

Memorial Postcard in Remembrance of the American Civil War, 1861-1865

Grand Army of the Republic Veteran's Medal from the American Civil War, 1861-1865

Grand Army of the Republic Veteran’s Medal from the American Civil War, 1861-1865

Fred Henn, Civil War Veteran, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1870-1890

Fred Henn, Civil War Veteran, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1870-1890

Harry H. Gale, Member of American Military in New York State, , Hamburg, New York, 1880s

Harry H. Gale, Member of American Military in New York State, Hamburg, New York, 1880s

John Briggs, North Collins, NY, Soldier in World War I, Circa 1917

John Briggs, North Collins, NY, Soldier in World War I, Circa 1917

John Hintermister (the Elder), American Military Veteran

John Hintermister (the Elder), American Military Veteran

Funeral Card of David I. Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1968 (Killed in Vietnam War) (Wentland Funeral Home, North Collins, New York)

Funeral Card of David I. Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1968 (Killed in Vietnam War) (Wentland Funeral Home, North Collins, New York)

Funeral Card of David Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1968

Funeral Card of David Briggs, North Collins, New York, 1968

Henry Curtis, World War II Veteran

Henry Curtis, World War II Veteran

Eugene Spires, World War II Veteran

Eugene Spires, World War II Veteran

James Kibbe, Korean War Veteran

James Kibbe, Korean War Veteran

Peter Krakowiak, American Navy Veteran

Peter Krakowiak, American Navy Veteran

Arnold Bennett, Vietnam War Veteran

Arnold Bennett, Vietnam War Veteran

John Nice, Jr.,  American Military Member

John Nice, Jr., American Military Member

I am also aware that one of the Tomaszewski men (formerly of Gowanda, New York, and now of Chicago, Illinois), a cousin to my mom, was a pilot in the Air Force, possibly in the Vietnam War.

These photos, information, and memorabilia represent all those known individuals within my family, and from my family ancestry, who have served in the American military.  I salute you for your risks, sacrifices, and in the case of David Briggs, his ultimate sacrifice, for the freedoms and protections of others.  While I have taught history, and honor and appreciate our military veterans, I am not one who has the will to risk my life in possible sacrifice in the military.  You all are a credit to our country for your service, and to the preservation of democracy.

My Gale, Henn, Cole, McGee, and Bulson Family Ancestry Photos (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

The families of Gale, Henn, Cole, McGee, and Bulson are a big part of my family ancestry on my dad’s mother’s mom’s side of the family.  The Gale’s came to the United States from England.  William M. Gale, who is my Great Great Grandfather or Great Great Great Grandfather, was born in England.  Emily Esther (Costard) Gale (born on Isle of Jersey in the Channel Island, England on January 29, 1849-died in North Collins, New York on July 11, 1917), is possibly the mother (more likely) or a sister of William H. Gale, though I am unsure if he was William Hamilton Gale or William Henry Gale.  There were also other Gale’s in the family, including Walter Allen Gale, Harry Hamilton Gale, Julia Emily Gale, Alice Costard Gale, Lydia Ada Gale, and Carrie Camilla Gale.  Either William Hamilton Gale or William Henry Gale married Anna (Henn) Gale, and they had a daughter, Emily B. Gale.  Harry Hamilton Gale (September 14, 1878-March 1930), an uncle of my grandmother, served in the military in New York State.

All of the Gale’s lived in Hamburg, New York, but for Harry who is later said to have moved to Canada.  William (Emily B. Gale’s father) was a successful barber, and owned and operated his own barber shop in Hamburg for decades.  They lived on Main Street, and the barber shop was close by their residence.  Julia Emily (Gale) Briggs was married to Clarence Briggs, and they had a daughter, Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague, my grandmother – my father’s mother.

My Great Great Grandmother Emily (Costard) Gale’s sisters remained in England, but stayed in touch with her and sent photos and letters to her through the years.  Irish ancestry, through marriage, came from one of my great great grandmother’s sisters, Julia McGee; her son was named William McGee.  He married and had two daughters, Dorothy and Phyllis. Dorothy married Mr. B. Apps on August 2, 1937.

There were also several members of the Henn Family, who had immigrated to the United States from Germany.  From what I have uncovered, I believe that Frank Henn married Anna (Goetz) Henn.  They had children, including Fred and Louis, and possibly Anna, Frank, William, and Charles.  Fred (Frederick) (born October 20, 1843 in Bavaria, Germany) was a soldier in the Union Army and fought in the Civil War in Louisiana and Virginia.  He was a private in Company D, 116th NYVI Regiment of Buffalo.  He was wounded in Louisiana, and spent 2-3 months in the hospital, there, recovering.  He was honorably discharged due to the end of the war.  There is a photo and record of his service on file at the Hamburg (New York) Historical Society.  I also have a photo and an item of memorabilia reflecting his service in the Army.  He was married to Mary A. Henn, who died in 1896.

When Emily B. Gale died in 1986 and her estate was sold, my family missed acquiring Fred Henn’s medal from his service in the Civil War because it was grabbed quickly by an antique dealer who had a special interest in such memorabilia, and who had arrived just ahead of my parents for the sale.  It would have been a wonderful piece to keep in the family.  Additionally, I have a beautiful and colorful marriage certificate of a Friedrich  Henn and Mahole (Thompson) Henn, reflecting their wedding date as July 27, 1897 in Germany.  This is believed to be a different Fred Henn than the man who fought in the American Civil War.  Also remember that Emily B. Gale was the only child of William H. Gale and Anna (Henn) Gale.

The Cole’s are part of my family ancestry through Carrie Camilla Gale’s marriage to Frank Cole.  Carrie was the eldest daughter of William and Emily (Costard) Gale.  Frank and Carrie had a son, Arnold, who married Grace Cochran.  They then had three sons and a daughter, including Arnold Cole, Jr., William E. Cole, Eugene Cole, and Norma G. Cole.  I have several photos of Arnold Cole as a baby and as a private school student in Buffalo, New York.

I have one image William M. Gale, and a few photos of Emily (Costard) Gale.  I do not have any photos of Frank Cole, though I do have a couple of photos that include Carrie with her sisters, Julia and Alice.  Julia was my Great Grandmother – my Grandmother’s mom. Emily B. Gale, my grandmother’s cousin, lived with her parents, and never married.  She inherited the family home following the death of Anna (as William had predeceased her), though was placed in a nursing home in Hamburg, New York, where she died in 1986.  Emily B. Gale owned many amazing antiques and treasures, including antique furniture; dolls; photographs in frames; and Civil War memorabilia of Fred Henn.  My family was able to purchase a few of those items at her estate sale just after her death.

William H., Anna (Henn), and Emily B. Gale, and Frederick and Mary A. Henn, are buried in Prospect Lawn Cemetery in Hamburg, New York.

William M. Gale, Father of William H. Gale, Early Half of 1800s

William M. Gale, Father of William H. Gale, Early Half of 1800s

This is an image of William M. Gale, the father of William H. Gale.  The image is printed on a postcard, and would have to be from the early half of the 1800s.

Emily Gale (Grandmother of Emily B. Gale) with Oldest Granddaughter, Julia Gale (Age 2), Hamburg, NY, 1890

Emily (Costard) Gale with Julia Gale (Age 2), Hamburg, New York, 1890

Here is Emily Gale with Julia Gale, in Hamburg, New York in about 1890.

Possibly a Gale, Buffalo, New York

Possibly a Gale, Buffalo, New York

This photo is thought to possibly be that of a Gale boy.

Alice Gale

Alice Gale

This is a photo of Alice Gale, who was one of William Gale’s sisters or nieces.

Emily (Costard) Gale (1849-1917), Wife of William M. Gale, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1900-1910

Emily (Costard) Gale (1849-1917), Hamburg, New York, Circa 1900-1910

This photo is of Emily Esther (Costard) Gale, in Hamburg, New York in later life, around 1900-1910.

Condenseo Mince Meat (Possible Employees), Near Hamburg, New York, Circa 1890

Condenseo Mince Meat (Possible Employees), Near Hamburg, New York, Circa 1890

In her later years, Emily (Costard) Gale also worked at Condenseo Mince Meat in or around Hamburg, New York.  This is the best photo that I have of the employees of this company, a photo that also includes my Great Grandfather, Clarence Briggs, and one of his brothers, Howard Briggs, who both also worked there at that time.  Emily is seated in the middle, front row of the photo, while the Briggs men are standing at the rear.

Sisters Julia McGee (Age 75) and Martha Bulson (Age 72), Lee-on-the-Solent, England, 1929 (Cousins to Gale's and Briggs')

Sisters Julia McGee (Age 75) and Martha Bulson (Age 72), Lee-on-the-Solent, England, 1929 (Cousins to Gale’s and Briggs’)

This is a picture of Emily (Costard) Gale’s sisters, Julia McGee and Martha Bulson, from 1929 in England.

Martha E. Bulson (Left) and her Sister, Julia McGee, Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire, England, Circa 1923

Martha E. Bulson (Left) and her Sister, Julia McGee, Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire, England, Circa 1923

Here is Martha Bulson an her sister, Julia McGee, in England in 1923.  They were sisters of Emily (Costard) Gale.

Julia McGee, England, Christmas 1923

Julia McGee, England, Christmas 1923

Here is Julia McGee at Christmas in England in 1923.  The flowerettes were painted on the photo by William McGee, who painted pictures.  I believe the William was either her husband or son.

Martha E. Bulson with Sons and Grandchildren, Manor House, Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire, England, November 27. 1932

Martha E. Bulson with Sons and Grandchildren, Manor House, Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire, England, November 27, 1932

Here is Martha E. Bulson with her sons and grandchildren at her ‘Manor House’ in Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire, England, on November 27, 1932.

Martha E. Bulson (Left) with Sons and Grandchildren, Manor House, Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire, England, November 27. 1932

Martha E. Bulson (Left) with Sons and Grandchildren, Manor House, Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire, England, November 27, 1932

Again, here is a photo of Martha E. Bulson with her sons and grandchildren at her Manor House in Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire, England, on November 27, 1932.

William McGee, 1933, England

William McGee, 1933, England

This is a photo of William McGee in England in 1933.

The McGee's and Apps', August 2, 1937, England

The McGee’s and Apps’, August 2, 1937, England

Here is William McGee (right) with his family.  William’s wife is at the far left.  The McGee’s daugther, Dorothy married Mr. B. Apps on August 2, 1937.  The woman standing next to William is the groom’s mother.  The McGee’s daughter, Phyllis, is sitting.

Ronald Bulson, Lee-on-the-Solent, England, 1938 (By E.M. Blakey)

Ronald Bulson, Lee-on-the-Solent, England, 1938 (By E.M. Blakey)

This photo is of Ronald Bulson in England.  Ronald was Martha Bulson’s grandson.

Julia Gale (Married Name-Briggs), Hamburg, New York, 1890

Julia Gale (Married Name-Briggs) of Hamburg, New York, 1890

This is a photo of my Great Grandmother, Julia Emily (Gale) Briggs as a girl.

The Young Gale Girls, (L to R) Alice, Carrie (Married Name-Cole), & Julia (Married Name-Briggs), Hamburg, New York, 1890 (Daughters of William H. and Anna [Henn] Gale)

The Young Gale Girls, (L to R) Alice, Carrie (Married Name-Cole), & Julia (Married Name-Briggs), Hamburg, New York, 1890

Here are the Gale girls of Hamburg,  New York around 1890.

Possibly Alice Gale and Daughter, Buffalo, New York

Possibly Alice Gale and Daughter, Buffalo, New York

This photo is possibly of Alice Gale and a daughter, although I am not sure.  It is from 1908.

Anna (Henn) Gale with Niece Julia Emily Gale (Left) and Emily B. Gale, Hamburg, New York, 1900

Anna (Henn) Gale with Niece Julia Emily Gale (Left) and Emily B. Gale, Hamburg, New York, 1900

This is a photo of Anna (Henn) Gale with my Great Grandmother, Julia Gale, and Anna’s only child, Emily B. Gale, in Hamburg, New York around 1900.

Anna (Henn) Gale (Wife of William H. Gale; Mother of Emily B. Gale), Hamburg, New York, Circa 1900

Anna (Henn) Gale (Wife of William H. Gale; Mother of Emily B. Gale), Hamburg, New York, Circa 1910

Anna (Henn) Gale is shown in this photo, in Hamburg, New York around 1910.

William H. Gale, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1890-1900

William H. Gale, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1890-1900

Pictured is William H. Gale, husband of Anna (Henn) Gale, and father of Emily B. Gale, of Hamburg, New York around 1890-1900.  He was a barber in Hamburg for decades.

Emily B. Gale (in Fur Coat), Hamburg, New York, 1890, Only Child of William H. and Anna (Henn) Gale

Emily B. Gale (in Fur Coat), Hamburg, New York, 1900, Only Child of William H. and Anna (Henn) Gale

This is a photo of my grandmother’s cousin, Emily B. Gale, as a young girl, wearing a fur coat in Hamburg, New York around 1900.

Emily B. Gale, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1905

Emily B. Gale, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1905

This is another photo of Emily B. Gale as a young girl in Hamburg, New York around 1905.

Emily B. Gale, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1910

Emily B. Gale, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1910

Again, pictured is Emily B. Gale of Hamburg, New York around 1910.

William H. Gale (Age 91) Outside his Home in Hamburg, NY, 1938 (Born in England)

William H. Gale (Age 91) Outside his Home in Hamburg, NY, 1938 (Born in England)

Here, William Gale is pictured as an elderly man.  He was 91 years old in 1938 when this photo was taken, just outside the Gale Family home in Hamburg, New York.

Harry H. Gale

Harry H. Gale

This is a photo of Harry H. Gale, a brother of William H. Gale.

Harry Hamilton Gale, Military Veteran, Buffalo, New York, 1890s

Harry Hamilton Gale, Military Veteran, Buffalo, New York, 1890s

This is a photo of Harry Hamilton Gale as a Union Army soldier out of Buffalo, New York in the 1880s.

Fredrick Henn and his Wife (Possibly Anna), Hamburg, NY, Circa 1890-1900 (Notice Civil War Medal for Union Service)

Frederick Henn and his Wife, Mary A. Henn, Hamburg, NY, Circa 1890 (Notice Civil War Medal for Union Service)

This is a photo of Frederick Henn and his wife, thought to be named Anna, in Hamburg, New York around 1890-1900.  Notice that Fred is wearing his medal for service in the Union Army during the American Civil War.

Funeral Card of Mrs. Fred Henn, March 19, 1896, Hamburg, New York

Funeral Card of Mrs. Fred Henn, March 19, 1896, Hamburg, New York

This is a funeral card for Mrs. Fred Henn, whom I believe would have been the lady in the photo preceding this image.  She died on March 19, 1896 in Hamburg, New York at age 58.

Thought to be Fred Henn, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1870-1890

Thought to be Fred Henn, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1870-1890

This is a photo that is thought to be of Fred Henn, around 1870-1890, in Hamburg, New York.

Frederick Henn, Hamburg, NY, Circa 1920

Frederick Henn, Hamburg, New York, American Civil War Veteran in Union Army, Circa 1920

This copy of a photo is of Fred Henn, also identifying his regiment in the Army in which he fought in the Civil War.  I obtained copies of these items from the Hamburg Historical Society in Hamburg, New York in 2001.

Civil War Veterans (GAR), Hamburg, New York, Circa 1930 L-R Charles Duke, Fred Henn, Joseph Taylor, Eugene Frink, Conrad Glasser

Civil War Veterans (GAR), Hamburg, New York, Circa 1930 L-R Charles Duke, Fred Henn, Joseph Taylor, Eugene Frink, Conrad Glasser

This is a photo on display at the Hamburg Historical Museum/Society.  I took a photo of the picture when I visited there.  My grandmother’s cousin’s uncle is Fred Henn, who served in the Grand Army of the Republic’s Company D of the 116th Regiment during the Civil War.

Louis Henn, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1890

Louis Henn, Hamburg, New York, Circa 1890

This is a photo of Louis Henn, a brother of Fred Henn, in Hamburg, New York around 1890.

Louis Henn and Possible Brothers (3)

Louis Henn (at left) and possibly his brothers, 1890-1900?

Possibly the Henn brothers (3)

Here again, Louis Henn (front, left), and possibly his brothers, undated.

Unknown Ancestor, Possibly from the Henn Family, Troy, New York, Circa 1925-1935 or Earlier

Unknown Ancestor, Possibly from the Henn Family, Troy, New York, Circa 1925-1935 or Earlier

This is a photo of a man believed to be a member of the Henn Family.

Arnold Cole (Son of Frank and Carrie [Gale] Cole), Buffalo, NY, Circa 1892

Arnold Cole (Son of Frank and Carrie [Gale] Cole), Buffalo, NY, Circa 1892

This is a photo of Arnold Cole, the son of Frank and Carrie (Gale) Cole, in Buffalo, New York in 1892.

Arnold Cole, Hamburg or Buffalo, NY, Circa 1905, Cousin to Julia (Gale) Briggs, Emily Gale, Bernice Briggs Babcock Sprague

Arnold Cole, Hamburg or Buffalo, NY, Circa 1895, Cousin to Julia (Gale) Briggs, Emily Gale, Bernice Briggs Babcock Sprague

Here is another picture of Arnold Cole, with his toy horse, probably in Buffalo, New York around 1895.

Arnold Cole

Arnold Cole

Here is another picture of Arnold Cole as a boy.

Arnold Cole (Age 16) (Son of Carrie [Gale] Cole), Buffalo, NY, 1908

Arnold Cole (Age 16) (Son of Carrie [Gale] Cole), Buffalo, NY, 1908

This photo of Arnold Cole was taken in 1908 in Buffalo, New York when he was 16-years-old.  It was taken outside of a private school that he attended in Buffalo.

Arnold Cole (Age 13), Buffalo, NY, 1923

Arnold Cole (Age 13), Buffalo, NY, 1905

Here is another photo of Arnold Cole at age 13, outside of another private school that he attended in Buffalo, New York, in 1905.

Arnold Cole (Age 17) (Son of Carrie [Gale] Cole), Buffalo, NY, 1909

Arnold Cole (Age 17) (Son of Carrie [Gale] Cole), Buffalo, NY, 1909

This is another photo that shows Arnold Cole in Buffalo, New York as a young man in 1909.

These represent some of the many photos that I have of these of my family ancestors.  My grandmother, Bernice, had loads of vintage and antique photos that she kept for many years until she decided to burn most of them in a burn barrel used for burning trash in the back yard of her home.  One day, when I was a girl, when I was visiting her and there was “trash” burning in the barrel, I asked what she was burning, and she told me.  I remember getting very angry and upset, and stated to her that I wanted the photos, and not to burn any anymore.  I could not believe that she would burn such valuable memories related to her family heritage!

Therefore, I have many photos of my family ancestors, but would have had many more had my grandmother not put them up in smoke.  Additionally, I used to have many more tin types, especially those of the Henn’s, however when my family moved from Collins to Gowanda, New York around 1992, they were unknowingly discarded by my parents.  I was heartbroken that such valuable family treasures had been thrown away.

Photo of 15 Henn, Briggs, Gale Tin Types, 1988

Photo of 15 Henn, Briggs, Gale Tin Types, 1988

This photo reflects the 15 tin types of my Gale, Briggs, and Henn ancestry that were accidentally discarded by my parents during my family’s move from Collins to Gowanda around 1992.

Again, as in previous posts of photos of my ancestors, the dates included represent the best possible accurate dates and/or estimates of dates of the images.

References and Sources:

Family photos and information of Bernice Gale Briggs Babcock Sprague from 1860-1987. Collins, New York.  Currently the Property of Michele Babcock-Nice (2014). Snellville, Georgia.

Ryther, James F. (Undated).  Personal War Sketch of Frederick Henn.  Buffalo, New York.  From Hamburg (New York) Historical Society, 2001.

“What is a True Friend?” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

What is a true friend?  What makes a person be a true friend to another?  There are many qualities of a friend that people may categorize as causing someone to be a true friend, and some people’s characteristics of a true friend may differ from others.  There are many qualities of what makes a true friend for me that I would like to share.

Firstly, a true friend likes, respects, and appreciates you for who you are.  A true friend is supportive, understanding, encouraging, and honest, and is not unnecessarily led or influenced by others in their opinions, decisions, and judgments about you.  A true friend sees the whole picture, not just what’s on the surface.  A true friend seeks to know and understand you, to be sensitive to you.  A true friend is there for you, encouraging you to be true to yourself, to help and protect yourself, to be your best, to improve yourself – your inner self.  A true friend knows you, seeks to know you, and appreciates what they know about you.  A true friend is always a friend, regardless of the issue or situation.

Next, true friends are those who can listen to and hear you out on any subject.  Sometimes, in providing others with certain information about ourselves, we are seeking to know whether or not we can fully trust and confide in another person.  Most people are uncomfortable with information with which they cannot cope, whether it is information about a topic that causes discomfort to them, or whether it is just plain a topic that they cannot handle or put up a wall against.  A true friend can take in all information and remain supportive and understanding because such information may lead to something better, a deeper relationship and more trusting relationship, a confidence in the other person that one can share anything with them, any issue, any detail, without them shutting you out or turning you away.

Sometimes, just when you believe you have found a true friend, someone on whom you can count, confide, and trust, you discover completely the opposite about that person.  It is particularly painful in those for whom one cares or loves, such as family members, close friends, or those others with whom one has a close emotional and/or spiritual connection to discover that they are not a true friend.  One may discover that they are led or blinded by their own discomforts, biases, judgments, beliefs, and/or the pressures of others and even the institutions that they may represent.  They are incapable of being a true friend when they have sight, but cannot see; when they have eyes, but no vision; when they are bound to their own discomforts, and are unable and unwilling to see the bigger picture; when they are a puppet to the rules and policies of the institutions that they represent, yet they don’t realize it, and are being led astray.

At other times, however, one may discover that they indeed, have found and maintained a true friend.  There are at least a half-dozen people throughout my life whom I would consider as true friends, those with whom I can share anything, and time and time again, they have responded to me positively, supportively, and encouragingly.  They appreciate and support me for who I am.  They reflect the care about me that I would like to think that I similarly do for them.  They help me to realize and be myself.  They open doors for me rather than shut them.  They break down walls and barriers for me rather than create them.  They are those whose actions have continually and regularly surpassed those of others in wanting, doing, and assisting in the best for others.  They are true friends.

I am so appreciative of those people in my life who are true friends!  It seems that those people, similarly to myself, who are true friends and whom I consider to be true friends, have the same characteristics.  We are warm, kind, understanding, sensitive, honest, supportive, encouraging, intelligent, confident, and assertive.  We want the best for ourselves and others, and to bring out the best in ourselves and others.  We are people who are helpful, rather than harmful or destructive.  

True friends also bring and seek to bring important issues to others’ attention and awareness in order to effect positive change, improvement, and enhancement in our lives and those of others.  We are concerned for the welfare and well-being of ourselves and others, and we always seek and strive to achieve and accomplish that with our honesty, sincerity, and genuineness.  Leaders and public figures such as Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Mahatma Gandhi are those whom I would consider to be a true friend to others on an even greater level than a close, personal true friend.

Sadly, too often, however, many people feel threatened by those positive qualities and characteristics that I previously described.  They may feel threatened due to their own insecurities and/or discomforts, shut us out, and refuse to listen to or hear us.  There may be something much greater at stake for the good of many others, yet when we are shut out, overlooked, denied, disrespected, discredited, or worse, it is they who have shown themselves of being untrustworthy and perhaps lacking in character. 

In those situations, one cannot count on that person to be a true friend, and must either seek the support and consult of someone else or rely on oneself.  I think this reflects that many people see only what they want to see, and not necessarily what is reality.  Too often, people are content to see only what is on the surface, and not ask questions, not dig deeper, and thus, they miss out on enjoying more meaningful and satisfying relationships with each other.

By being followers, such people are also not being leaders.  Leaders must be open to all information, all sides of an issue, all sides of a situation that they may not have even considered.  They must ask questions and seek to discover, not necessarily believing all that they see on the surface as deeper issues may be discovered that end up being for everyone’s benefit.  It is so sad to me that so many shut themselves out to the deeper issues, close themselves off due to their own discomforts and insecurities, fall short of potentially making situations, policies, and understandings of issues better for others rather than potentially worse. 

It is especially sad and disappointing to me when individuals who represent organizations or institutions shut out others, particularly when it is part of their job to be open to others.  One cannot speak with others who will not listen.  One cannot convince others of a different perspective when they have already made a decision to shut you out.  If you cannot trust a person to be open about hearing or considering one serious issue, there is no sense in presenting other important issues.  They think they are right and you are wrong; they think their way is perfect and your way is flawed.  This situation is potentially damaging and diminishing for everyone, and they may not even realize it. 

For how many years, decades, and lifetimes do people maintain sensitive or personal information all due to the fact that someone shut them out and would not listen to them due to the discomforts and/or insecurities of the other?  This is a perfect example of how individuals such as Jerry Sandusky are able to continue their damage and destruction upon others, when people don’t ask enough questions, when too many people don’t listen, when people shut each other out, when people choose to be blind rather than use their vision, regardless of the consequences. 

There are other situations in which red flags appeared prior to particular tragedies, yet those individuals who may have potentially stopped the situations from occurring either did not act or did not behave in a way that protected and saved others from harm.  Regarding the recent tragedy of senseless killings and injuries at the Aurora, Colorado movie theater by James Holmes, here is another situation when potential blindness of others failed to protect and save lives.  And, further, in situations in which child sexual abuse – or similar abuses of power – by Catholic clergy is covered up by male church leaders such as Msgr. William Lynn of Philadelphia, one wonders what male leaders, if any, within the Catholic Church can be trusted?

A true friend, therefore, is also someone in whom one can confide their most sensitive issues (of course, as long as those issues are all legal, moral, and ethical), and will find that the friend keeps their confidence.  One finds that another is not a true friend in confiding their most sensitive and painful issues to another when that person shares those issues with others, especially to those who thereby unnecessarily misunderstand, misconstrue, and misjudge them because of it.

Someone is definitely your enemy if they do not have your best interests at heart.  Someone who incorrectly shares sensitive or confidential information without knowing the whole picture or all the facts, thereby damaging you, is definitely not a friend, but an enemy.  Those who are very direct about it are easy to identify, however there are also those whom I characterize as wolves in sheep’s clothing who take in sensitive information, twist it around, and use it to harm you.  We must all be especially cautious and aware of the wolves in sheep’s clothing.  Throughout my life, there have been many of those, from whom I still feel and experience some of the damaging effects today.

There are few people in one’s life, therefore, whom they may consider to be a true friend.  A true friend, after all, is extremely hard to find.  A true friend is even harder to maintain.  Even more difficult to experience is the friend who turns into an enemy, a friend who by their own discomforts, insecurities, or feelings of being threatened by information that they don’t want to hear – or which information may be biased or incorrect to begin with – puts up a wall against you and shuts you out.  I feel sympathy and pray for those people who are missing out on developing a richer and more full relationship with others, simply by refusing to be more open to and honest with others. 

Importantly therefore, one must be very thankful for those people in their lives who have truly shown themselves to be true friends.  It is also important to remember to show one’s appreciation for their true friends.  Don’t take them for granted as they may be few and far between.  Are you a true friend?  And, how have you behaved as a true friend toward someone lately?