“Of all possessions a friend is the most precious.”
Most people have friends.
But not all friends are the same.
Some friends are what I call “proximity friends.” These are people that you become friends with because you are in the same area for a period of time. Since you spend time in the same space, you might naturally become friends with these people.
Other times you might have a common interest or set of values with someone. That common bond can become an entryway for friendship.
But there is another — much smaller — group of people.
What I would call: a best friend.
Sometimes you just connect with someone on a different level. Even if you move or change, you will still have a connection.
This article is my attempt to share how to make friends, but not just any friend — the type of friend that you would consider a best friend.
- A lifelong friend.
- A deep, long-lasting, and important friendship.
Many times I try to use principles to teach and then use stories to explain the principles. But here, I just share a story. I hope the principles will reveal themselves.
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’”
— C.S. Lewis
About 20 minutes after I settled into my dorm room in college, I experienced that moment in any new experience where you think to yourself, “Well, here I am. What do I do now?” The door to my room was open, ready for something, or someone, to happen.
It didn’t take long for the gap to be filled.
In walked, a tall, lanky, dark-skinned kid wearing a white tee shirt that didn’t look white anymore and short shorts.
He kind of bounced when he walked. He had long fingers and spoke with his hands.
The best way to describe him, after years of describing him, is to imagine Kramer from Seinfeld. Except Indian.
He did not say “Hi” or “Hello” or even introduce himself. He walked into my room and just started talking.
“Do you like basketball?” Those were the first words he ever said to me.
I did happen to like basketball.
“Because I am going to be the next Indian Dick Vitale.”
I was so taken aback by his directness that I did not know what to say. So we talked basketball for two hours. Alpesh Shah was hilarious to talk to. We instantly hit it off.
Driving with Alpesh
“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”
— Oprah Winfrey
Another time, I was driving down one of the main streets in town, with Alpesh as my passenger. In my passenger seat, Alpesh seemed to be dancing to a song that no one else could hear.
Suddenly, Alpesh said to me, “John, speed up. I know the person driving the car ahead of us.”
So I sped up. But slowly, since I did not want to get a ticket.
But what Alpesh did at that moment, I will never forget.
As I drove closer to the car ahead of us, Alpesh lowered the window on his side of the car.
Then, Alpesh stuck his head out of the passenger window.
But after his head cleared the window, he did not stop. He kept shoving his body out of the window until he was barely holding himself in the car by his knees resting on the seat.
I was freaking out!
“Alpesh, what are you doing!?”
He was oblivious to my warnings. He just screamed and was trying to say “what’s up” to his friend in the car ahead of us. He was hooting and hollering the entire time — while not responding to anything I had said — right up until we passed the car.
Then, suddenly, he stopped.
The screaming stopped. He slowly pulled himself back into the car. It was eerily quiet in that car.
After a few uncomfortable moments, Alpesh stared straight ahead, and just said, “It wasn’t him.”
It wasn’t him.
Every time I think about that story, I smile.
I learned, over time, that Alpesh is the type of person that everyone needs in their life. Hilarious, spontaneous, and fun.
But he is also extremely caring, giving, and selfless. And that is why I am sharing this story.
Loss of a Friend
“No friendship is an accident.”
— O. Henry
A few years’ prior, my friend Chris Kranz died in a car accident. He was on the way to rehearsal for a play that we were both in. He was so talented, warm, and fun.
I previously wrote about Chris and his impact on me here.
In short, I was wondering if I was supposed to go to medical school or dental school or do something different.
This was before I took the MCAT. Before I went to film school. Before I started working. I was in my first year of college — trying to figure out what to do with my life.
For me, the loss of Chris’s life represented all of my hopes and dreams at the time. I was crushed that someone of his talent and ability would not be able to share it with the world.
After Chris died, I promised myself that I would never waste my gifts and abilities — life is too short to waste.
Later in the same school year that I met Alpesh, I felt a longing that I did not want to share with anyone.
I felt the need to visit Chris’s grave — I wanted to reconnect with that promise that I made to myself a few years ago. I absolutely had to go. I could not study or get anything done until I went. I had to pay my respects to Chris and what he represented in my life.
I can’t explain it now — I just had to go.
Violation of the Rule: Always Have Wheels
“Always have wheels.”
— Edward Omron
My uncle Ed has a rule in life: always have your own transportation. That way, you are never stuck somewhere that you do not want to be. His shortened version of the rule: “Always have wheels.”
This is particularly true in college.
Unfortunately, I broke the rule. I did not have a car.
But I had to visit Chris’s grave.
Asking to Borrow a Car
“Friendship is always a sweet responsibility, never an opportunity.”
— Khalil Gibran
I walked around my dorm room floor, wondering what to do.
I did not have a car. But some people on my floor did.
“Hi. I don’t know you, but can I borrow your car?”
I started walking around asking people if I could borrow a car. But I felt embarrassed to share why I needed to borrow a car. It was not easy to explain that I wanted to go to a graveyard.
No one was willing to loan me keys.
I am not surprised.
And then I asked Alpesh. We were friends at the time, but not necessarily closer than the others in the dorm.
“Look, I cannot loan you my car. So sorry.”
“I Can Drive You”
“A true friend is someone who is there for you when he’d rather be anywhere else.”
— Len Wein
Alpesh could not let me borrow his car. But he did make one offer that no one else did.
“I cannot loan you my car — but I can drive you.”
YES. I had a ride.
“Where are we going?”
That was the question that I was afraid of.
That was the answer I blurted out. I am not sure what he thought initially. But I had to explain it.
I told Alpesh about my friend Chris — and what I was feeling. And Alpesh did the best thing: he listened.
I am still amazed that Alpesh dropped whatever he was going to do and decided to go to a graveyard to visit a grave with a guy he just met a few months ago. Alpesh rocks.
— Chris Kranz
We drove together to Chris’s grave. In those moments, our deep friendship was born.
I had forgotten that one of Chris’s poems was on the gravestone.
I might be forgotten
Lost in your mind
To remember me will be difficult
When you see me,
See me in the sunlight
Of the end of a good day
In the petals of a rose
In the sounds
Of a love song
In the strokes
Of an artist’s brush
For there is where I
In some ways, I believe that my deep longing to go to this place was linked to the person that was supposed to take me there.
Actions that Will Never Be Forgotten
“True friends are those rare people who come to find you in dark places and lead you back to the light.”
Most people will never be so selfless and giving to offer a hand when someone asks for it. I probably am one of those people most days.
But Alpesh taught me a great lesson that day.
The lesson is great because I learned how to create a deep, long-lasting friendship. But it is also great because we actually did create a great friendship.
I will never forget what Alpesh did for me.
How To Make a Best Friend
“If you have one true friend you have more than your share.”
— Thomas Fuller
Making a best friend does not need to be complicated.
- Find someone like me in this story.
- Do something like what Alpesh did.
I am amazed at how few people do those things.
Alpesh made time. He listened. He cared.
I am still friends with Alpesh today, over 20 years later.
We need more people like Alpesh.