There is a quote in Shakespeare's play "As You Like It":
"All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances."
We meet many people in our lives and, as the quotation says, a lot of them merely make an entrance. But the ones who remain are essential.
Thanksgiving caused me to consider those in my life who have stayed. I am most thankful for my closest friends, the ones I call in times of stress or happiness.
These are the people who give me perspective, who bring me back to reality in times of duress and are there in times of celebration and laughter.
These are the people I contact with life-changing news or just to share my day. We can talk about anything.
The most essential characteristic of my friends is that they never go away. We may get into fights where we vow never to talk to one another again, and it may take months and even years, but somehow we seem to find each other.
Maybe a fleeting memory triggers our reconnection like a long-forgotten song suddenly played at a concert, or a chance encounter causes us to realize how much we have missed the other person.
Then we spend time with one another again and pick up where we left off. We remember the same stories, laugh about the same inside jokes. We realize that our connection is still alive. It continued with time.
My friends are the ones who know me best. They can tell my life story. They accept all aspects of my personality, both good and bad.
Sometimes friends do not start off as friends. These occurrences have caused me to keep an open mind and to have patience with all people because you never really know who will impact your life.
Other friendships are not exactly based on shared experiences or interests but begin with an instant connection, something clicks in either conversation or mannerisms that makes the interaction natural. A sense of trust and connection follows with enjoyment of each other's company.
Sometimes I think the word "friend" is so simple and broad that it cannot begin to describe the relationship between two people. You can call someone you just met your friend as easily as someone you have known for years.
True friendship goes beyond word. Each friend is unique, defined by different circumstances and personalities, but all share characteristics of patience, honesty and simple love.
I have always believed a friendship is its own being, a life shared between two people.