I got another of those “copy and paste, don’t share” posts on Facebook from somebody who was trying to send a message against cancer.  I was told that “true friends of mine” would be the ones who did that.

Initially, I felt the urge to do something.  After all, who among us turns down a chance to be a true friend?  Then the feeling turned into annoyance, and I started to wonder how well I knew this person, whom I do see every week.  It is emotional blackmail, and I don’t like it.  I practiced medicine for 20 years, was in the medical field for about 35, and diagnosed and treated many with cancer.  I allowed some to die without prolonging their pain.  I lost a brother to esophageal cancer, and I treated thousands of people who had various neurological conditions affected by cancer.  That was my contribution.  I won’t be copying and pasting to my profile. The best message we could send would be to protest the billion dollar cut to the NIH, the current budget of which is the net worth of each of four Waltons. Stated another way, if each Walton donated his or her entire net worth, they could fund NIH for a year. Mathematically, that is a $1000 a second for a year.  That would do more to further cancer research than pasting a post.

I don’t do certain things on Facebook, such as to share whatever somebody tells me. I’ve shared three things in the eight years I’ve been on it.  I don’t put likes on pages where somebody wants a certain number of likes.  I don’t contribute money to undoubtedly good charities when asked; I have my own list.  I don’t post certain pictures, even ones of nature, for somebody’s collection.  I like certain posts, don’t like others, find that not writing anything is usually better than weighing in on every issue I read.  The most likes I’ve had on a post came from a comment I almost later deleted for being too hokey about my being a third generation American whose maternal grandfather came over from Ireland because of the famine. I wrote that I while I was proud of my heritage, I was prouder that I served America as a shipboard naval officer, even though I didn’t do much more than fill a billet on an amphibious cargo ship in the Western Pacific for twenty-three months.  Sure, I did a two appendectomies at sea, one by myself, probably reassured some on board, and maybe because of my presence a few slept better at night, but it wasn’t like I was “In Country,” that being Vietnam, which I was 25 miles off the coast of one night, but not in a combat role.  Anyway, my comment got 285 likes and a lot of thanks for my service, which I neither wished nor frankly deserved, since most of us had to serve back when I was in my 20s.

I’m not going to be a “true friend,” because true friends don’t ask others to do something to show their friendship.  Someone I call a good friend was chewed out at the hiking club’s executive meeting for having organized the first trail clearing we did after the ice storm devastated the city and the trails. Several of us showed up, including club board members, and we all worked together, nobody nominally in charge.  We took safety precautions, with hard hats, didn’t do things we weren’t comfortable doing, and cleared a lot of debris.  We had eight such outings; I “led” two of them, and was present at five others.

The head of the trail maintenance committee badly chewed my friend out at a board meeting, in front of several others, without involving me or two others who “led” these trail clearing hikes.  That wasn’t fair.  My friend, who did every hike he could, stopped hiking with the club as much and started hiking in the closed area, since we had already knew what the trail condition was like.  The closed area was filled with dog walkers and trail runners, and the signs stating closure were poorly visible with no enforcement.  The club wasn’t hiking there, but one snowy morning, my friend called me and asked if I wanted to do a “rogue hike,” as he called it, up the mountain.  I was game, so I went by bus as far as I could, he picked me up, we went to the trailhead and up the mountain.  Frankly, it was the best hike I’ve ever done there, and I’ve done it well north of 100 times.  He later posted that I was a “true friend,” and I had I guess a warm feeling, but I was more in it for myself.  I haven’t quite felt the same about the club ever since.  We did nothing wrong, and while I will participate in hikes and continue leading, both will be much fewer in number.  I won’t do trail maintenance again.  That’s too bad. I don’t look at some of the people there in quite the same light after this event.

There are people I know on Facebook who never read my posts.  No reason they should.  I’ve been unfriended twice, both from Germans; I prefer to block offending posts or offending people without unfriending them.  Each to his or her own; life is too short to argue about such matters.

I just got back from Nebraska where I had the honor, privilege and pure joy to take several hundred people over the space of eight days out to the viewing blinds where they could see the arrival of the Sandhill cranes at the Platte River at night and their departure in the morning.  I’m selfish there, too.  I go to Rowe Sanctuary  because I want to see Sandhill cranes.  I get a big charge out of watching 25,000 birds lift off the river, or land that night.  If that means I have to staff the gift shop, clean toilets, or run the information desk, so be it. I will. I like doing those jobs, too. I like to teach, and I can tell people in all three places, including the toilets, why the cranes are there, where they came from, how long they will stay, and where they are going.

Yesterday on Facebook one of my friends said that after viewing my pictures and videos, his wife said they ought to go to Nebraska next year.  I replied that I don’t use the word “should” in the second person, for I find that too judgmental.  I simply wrote that I found the place unique and magical.  No volunteer at Rowe would dispute those two words.  Not one.  Most would add several other terms, like spectacular, mind-blowing, jaw-dropping, or once in a lifetime.  I hope he and his wife come there next year, but I won’t push it, any more than I am pushing people to see totality in August.

Good friends offer information and suggestions when asked, show up when they are needed.  Otherwise, they offer support rather than advice, don’t keep score, or quote a price.



What we encountered clearing trails after the ice storm.  This was tame.


Sandhill cranes, evening on the Platte, March 2017

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