You Can’t Buy Friendship

February 7, 2011

I called this place "home" for 22 years.

I grew up with a group of guys in Pittsburgh. We were all within a couple of years of each other. Joey Geagin, Frank Sabash, Joey Stiger, Billy and Bobby Ault, Marvin Hess, Herb Gallagher, my brother Lewis, and me. A few of the guys lived on Hollywood Street; whenever we got involved in a  sporting contest with kids from another neighborhood, we called ourselves the Hollywood All-Stars. That sounded better than any name we could invent based on Stratmore or Steuben streets.

There were a couple of other guys who moved away while we were all fairly young – Donny Yarling and a kid whose first name escapes me… his last name was Vater; his father owned the local hardware store.

And then there were the two siblings that were never quite part of the gang. One was a girl. She was obviously ostracized until our teen years. By then, she no longer wanted anything to do with us.

Her brother, David, was another story. I’m not going to mention his last name, but the folks I named earlier will probably know who I’m talking about.

It’s my understanding that both of those children were adopted. I can’t say for sure. I just know David was approximately our age, but had a different attitude on life.

None of us were anything more than fair athletes… at best, but David was never interested in our games of softball, football, or basketball. He always wanted to do other things – ride bikes, go to the movies, or get into mischief.

The thing that sticks in my mind the most about David is that he always seemed to have money. Money was a scarce commodity in our neighborhood and David learned early on how to use money to his advantage. If we were playing basketball and he wanted us to do something different, he’d offer to treat us to ice cream or pop. That meant bringing our game to a halt and walking the six or seven blocks to the dairy store.

David stayed in his house a lot more than the rest of us. When he did come out, he usually had something novel to get our attention… or he came bearing gifts. Because he never wanted to do the same things the rest of us enjoyed, we soon grew to dislike him.

Depending on the mood of the group on any given day, we’d either let him buy us something or tease him unmercifully until he went home.

I can remember one time I told him directly that he could not buy our friendship. If he really wanted to be a part of the group, he needed to just join in. Nothing more and nothing less. That’s the last time he offered me anything.

I often wonder if he would’ve changed as he matured. Unfortunately, we’ll never know. When he was fourteen or fifteen, he stole a car, took a bunch of guys joy riding, and wrapped the car around a telephone pole. He was killed.

Fifty years later I still have no idea why he felt the need to buy his friends. Yet, as I look around, I see others who seem to have the same personality trait.

I’ve known people who spend lavishly on friends and relatives and find themselves deeply in debt. Yet they’ll borrow money from retirement accounts to maintain the image of a wealthy big spender. I can’t help questioning what they’ll live on when they can no longer work.

Some people might think my bride and I are poor or simply miserly. We drive old vehicles and live in a modest home. We eat most of our meals at home and don’t spend a ton of money on the latest fashions. But we do manage to take nice vacations and continue to put money in our nest egg so that when we finally do retire completely, we won’t have to move in with our children.

You can’t buy friendship. I’ve always figured that if a person doesn’t like me because of whatever, I’m not really going to change his or her mind by spending lots of money showering him or her with gifts.

That seems like such a simple concept. So why can’t our government understand?

Jimmy Carter believed he could bring peace to the Middle East by giving Egypt the same amount of foreign “aid” as Israel was receiving. Considering all the money the Middle East is receiving simply by selling us oil, why do any of those countries need “aid”?

How many trillions of tax payers’ dollars have been sent to governments across the globe? How many of those tax payers’ dollars have trickled down to the poor people in those countries? How many of those tax payers’ dollars have made foreign potentates ridiculously wealthy while they continue to blame all their problems on the Imperialistic Devils in America?

We send billions of tax payers’ dollars to Saudi Arabia and their schools teach their children to hate us.

You can’t buy friendship. If children can figure that out, why can’t our politicians?

The current congress, and President, claim they want to cut government spending. I don’t know how much of the budget is given away to foreign governments, but I’ll bet we could save a bundle by telling them we don’t need their friendship that badly.

And that is my rant for the day.