A couple of weeks ago, my daughter Anna had a dance competition. She decided she didn’t just want to be there for her dances, she wanted to come early and stay late to see her friends dance. It’s a noble sentiment, so I agreed go with her.
As we made our way to the auditorium to see some solos, I suddenly noticed Anna wasn’t with me. I texted her: Get out here. You’re missing dances!
She replied: I’m watching from the wings.
First, I spent a lot of time teaching terms to kids when I taught theatre, so her quick use of “wings” in a text made my heart smile.
Second, well, so many things came to mind…
Automatically, I thought, I want to be a “waiting in the wings” kind of friend. There are some things we can learn about friendship from my daughter waiting in the wings.
Waiting the Wings friends:
1. Take risks
I already mentioned I’m a former theatre teacher. I also directed plays, and I can say with certainty, extra people in the wings is annoying. I can imagine a stage manager scanning the wings for people who are clearly not about to go onstage to dance and telling them to clear the space. My daughter was not in costume and didn’t have her hair or make-up done yet. This was during the solo category, so the wings weren't packed with groups of dancers or bulky scenery, but still. Anna chose to take the risk of being in a place she may not be welcomed to support her friends. It made me think, do I take risks to be there for my friends? The other day, I went to visit my own Grandma in a downtown hospital after visiting hours. I had to go through the scary emergency room entrance. When I emerged unharmed, I felt like I deserved some sort of award for my bravery. And this was for my own Grandma! Waiting in the wings friends also...
2. Put their own needs aside
I watched the dances from the audience. My vantage point was much better than my daughter’s in the wings because they were facing me. Anna saw everything from the side, so she missed certain details and facial expressions. It didn’t matter to her because she wanted to be a supporter not just an observer. I’ve often been jealous about certain friends I see on social media. I open up Facebook and sure enough there are two of my friends having another amazing adventure together. Social media is notorious for making adults feel like they're in middle school again. But then I think about those friendships and think, “Why would I expect to be in her inner circle when I’ve never done anything to earn my place there?” I don’t mean that we “earn” friendships, but these are the type of friends I enjoy running into, but don’t go out of my way to connect with. I didn’t show up with a meal when they were getting treatment or had a baby. I didn’t reach out to them when they were going though something difficult. I watched them dance, but I did it from the audience. Not in the wings. Wings-watchers do something else. They...
3. Allow others the spotlight
You know what’s onstage? Lights. But it’s dark in the wings. Being a good friend often starts with the humility to allow others to shine while you stand in darkness. Man, that goes against culture. The iCulture. It’s all about me, me, me. But I know me, me, me people, and I don’t like to be round them that much. We need to be okay with our friends being in the spotlight and cheering for them from the darkness. Lastly, friends who wait in the wings...
4. See them through it
I asked my daughter why she wanted to wait in the wings and she said, “I want to be there to say good luck and be there to say good job.” She wanted to be someone who encouraged them as they took the stage and be ready with a hug when they returned. I’m not trying to be self-deprecating in this post, but I can learn so much from this comparison. As a friend, I’m pretty good at doing one of these, but not both. I may show up to encourage someone, but by the time they emerge from what’s going on, I’m long-gone, or I come in at the last minute to pose in the celebratory picture. If I’m honest, sometimes checking up on a friend who's struggling is just another box to check.
Eat breakfast √
Brush teeth √
Send a message to a friend dealing with unimaginable grief √
Pack lunches √
I move on. In other words, I’m not still there when they leave the stage waiting with a “great job” and a big hug.
I know I can’t be a “waiting in the wings” friend to everyone I know. If I did, I’d also be an “absent” parent, an “aloof” spouse, and guilt-ridden when I ultimately fail at an impossible quest. But I can be this kind of friend more often. I can make more of an effort. I can stop making excuses and start doing the things that make my friends feel loved and supported.
God has taught me so much from Anna's selfless act. I want to love my friends the way she does. So, if you need me, I’ll be in the wings.