Dear Lauren,

I just finished my first year of high school. When I first started, I didn’t have any friends in my new school, and I was really lonely. By the end of this year, I found some friends, and I like them. The only question I have is this: one of them always talks about clothes and money and cars and things like that, and I don’t like it. I’ve told her before that I wish she wouldn’t talk about those things to me. My question is: should I keep her as a friend?

Lauren Roth

Lauren Roth's Answer

My guess is that each of the new friends you’ve made has a flaw or a fault (or two!). The truth is, no person is perfect, and if you’re only going to be friends with perfect people, then you’ll stay lonely your whole life long.

You said you were lonely before you made friends, and now you like the ones you’ve chosen. I say: enjoy them, even with their imperfections. See the good in them, enjoy the good parts of them, learn only from the good parts of them, and make sure not to copy the negative things they do.

Enjoy them, even with their imperfections.

I’ve told readers before that I have many different types of friends, for all the different aspects of myself. I have my more fun friends, and my more intellectual friends. I have my more spiritual friends, and my more practical friends. I love each of them for the beauty they bring into my life – and each of them brings a different kind of beauty.

The only thing you should never tolerate is a friend who’s mean to you or to others. God made every person on this earth, and if anyone is mean to God’s children, in my opinion, that disqualifies him or her from being worthy of being a friend.

You said you’ve told your friend that you wish she wouldn’t talk about material things. I’m impressed with your courage and self-confidence. Good for you! For those of you who might wonder how that conversation would go, here’s a script:

[When she talks about clothes or money or cars, etc., in a way that makes you uncomfortable:] “Okay, let’s not talk about that. It makes me feel weird. I’m so sorry!Is that ok? I like our other topics of discussion way more.”

I happen to agree with you: talking about superficial things bores me, too. It also makes me feel like I’m wasting my time, my brainpower, and my spiritual energy. It’s usually nice to find friends who are as deep as you would like for them to be.

But, like I said, everyone has faults and things you won’t like, and as long as your friends are kind people, it’s nice to interact with them. You know I’m always telling stories about kindness and how much it brings light and positive energy to the world.

I have a great story about kindness bringing about goodness that just happened to me this week. First, a short one: I was at Starbucks, getting five iced teas for friends (I guess I’m a kind friend, too! I’ll just pat myself on the back now…). But the tray for carrying drinks out only had four slots. I said to the cashier: “Do you have any suggestions about how I should carry five?” (And my phone, sunglasses, purse, and keys…)

There were a few people around, observing the scene, and the one guy who was wearing a yarmulke said: “I’ll carry the extra drink for you to your car.” Wow! By the way, not only did he carry the extra drink – he took all of the teas for me! I think his random act of kindness was a big Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God’s name) for all the people watching the scene unfold.

What does this have to do with your question? Again, your friends can have faults. Everybody does. But so long as they’re kind people, I vote for you to stay friends with them. Kind people bring goodness and light to the world.

I have another story about kindness. There was one portion of my daily drive with my kids which smelled of sewage. I decided to call the different authorities who would possibly be in charge of rectifying the problem with my kids in the car, on speakerphone, so they could see how a good citizen is supposed to deal with a public nuisance.

The first person I called (on speakerphone, with my kids listening), was the Municipal Department of Public Works. I told the woman who answered the phone that there was a smell of sewage at a certain intersection and was she ever rude!

“We don’t deal with that,” she said.

“Okay. So whom do you suggest I call instead?” I politely asked. “Should I call maybe the water company?”

She said that would be a good idea and gave me their number.

I told her it might be from some vagabonds using the underpass as a bathroom facility, and asked her, “Do you think maybe I should call the police or the mayor’s office in case that’s what the smell is?”

She got totally indignant. “Well! If you’re going to threaten to call the mayor…!”

I just ignored her indignation and repeated, quite innocently, “Yes? Do you think that might be a good place to call next?” She calmed down, and we finished the conversation.

When I had hung up, I asked my kids if they had noticed that the woman had been rude and defensive. They said they hadn’t really noticed that, but when I proceeded to call three more offices and the people on the other end of the line were very polite, helpful, and not rude at all, my children realized the misbehavior of the first woman.

After I called the correct authorities and reported the problem, I called the first woman back. The phone in the office was answered by a colleague of hers, and I asked if I could please speak to the woman I had spoken with originally. She got on the phone, and sullenly said: “Hullo.”

“Is this the woman I spoke with a few minutes ago?”

She answered, warily: “Yeah.”

“Oh! Hello! I just wanted to call you back and thank you so much for all your help! I called the water company, like you suggested, and I reported the problem, and then I called another water company, like you said, just to be sure it wasn’t their pipe which was causing the problem. And I also thank you for telling me to call the police, because they were very helpful, too, and I just thank you for helping me so much to get to the bottom of this problem!”

Her whole voice changed. “You just called me back to thank me?”

“Yes!” I said. “You helped me so much!”

She said, with joy in her voice, “I thought for sure you were calling back to tell me I had been rude! I can’t believe this – I am going to have the most blessed, wonderful day! You just put me into the best mood! Wow, thank you for calling!”

What’s the moral of the story? There are a lot of flaws people might have, but so long as they’re kind, keep them as your friend. Kindness builds the world, and brings a lovely aura to your life. Other flaws might bother you – and you can tell your friends (kindly!) about your preferences regarding those flaws – but so long as they’re kind, keep ‘em!