One of the great thing about military life is that you have the opportunity to make a new very good, or maybe even “best,” friend at every duty station. Unfortunately this “great” thing comes with a sad side, too. When it’s time to move you are likely leaving that fantastic battle buddy behind. And, if you’re anything like me, when the next battle happens in her life, you will feel really, really sad that you can’t be there for her.
(BTW – I’m using “her” in this instance because I can only speak with expertise on how it feels to leave behind female friends as those are the only kind I have. Sorry, male spouses).
I have a particular far away friend who recently found out that she is – surprise! – pregnant. With her husband getting ready to deploy and an almost-two-year-old keeping her more than busy at home, this pregnancy was not exactly something they had planned. But when she went to the doctor she got an even bigger surprise …
She’s pregnant with twins.
That’s TWO humans that she’ll be pushing out, possibly alone. Two humans she’ll be taking home to her lonely toddler. And two humans she’ll have to figure out some way to feed. (I hope she’s not getting overwhelmed reading about how overwhelming I think twins are …).
Plus: she’s going to have to buy a minivan.
Whoa, whoa, whoa.
If ever there was a time that I wanted to be there for this friend, it’s now. But I’m not. I’m far, far away in new-duty-station-land.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t be supportive. And being far away from whatever friend-in-need you have right now does not mean that you can’t lend a hand, too. Here are three tips for doing so.
1. You can say supportive words from a distance, too. Just because you’re far away doesn’t mean you can’t give her that pep talk you’d be dishing out over wine from her couch if you still lived nearby. A phone call is the obvious answer to long distance communication, but why not send a letter through the mail – yes, the old fashioned way? Drop by the drug store, hunt down a funny greeting card and write a hand written note in that bad boy. Her day is certain to brighten up after that.
2. Friends like care packages, too. Earlier this year I gave birth to our second son while my husband was away at an Army school that offered very, very little communication. I only got to speak to him for about 30 seconds at a time once every three weeks. (I wish that was an exaggeration). I was lonely.
And then a friend sent me a care package stuffed with a pile of extremely thoughtful little things. A toy for my bored toddler. A few encouraging Bible verses that she had hand written on three-by-five cards. A coffee mug and Starbucks gift card because … well, you know.
It was amazing. And it was just the thing I needed to make me not feel alone.
A care package for a friend does not have to be expensive or even that time consuming to put together. Think “what would make me feel special if I was her?” and then put those things in there. In some cases, like this one, it really is the thought that counts.
3. Not into care packages? Send another kind of surprise. The possibilities are endless – and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Check out her local Groupon deals and get her something that way. Mail her a traditional gift certificate for a local restaurant. Tell her you’re going to buy her dinner next Tuesday, and then order a pizza to be delivered from a local place (paying ahead over the phone or online, obviously).
Taking care of your long distance friends may require some creativity, but it’s not impossible. What are your best long distance battle buddy care tricks?
P.S. I chose the photo above because it shows a couple military spouses hanging out with what looks like a lot of cake. And I think that cake is one of the most supportive things in the world.