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A big Bear Hug

Today is the birthday of a couple of friends. I wanted to take the time to highlight their best qualities.

First up is my friend Bear, well-known to the Hyperion Nation. Bear has appeared in numerous columns, and is a contributor to Monkey Barn. I thought of all his good qualities and came up with Some of them were sort of synonyms, but I still had over 20, which meant paring it down was tough! But this is what I came up with:

#10 Capable of handling the ball – When Bear came up to visit me we went to church. We got separated, and I was a little anxious, wanting to make sure he was comfortable. Silly me. I looked over to see Bear doing just fine. I’m not saying it’s a bad trait if people are too shy or not confident or whatever to handle a social situation without holding their hand, but it’s so nice to know that whatever situation we came into Bear was going to do just fine by himself (which left me free to pursue the honeys, and that’s a friend).

#9 His family – Technically his family didn’t spring up from him, but Bear likes to point out they wouldn’t be nearly so great without his positive influence in their lives. Bear’s mom and dad have always accepted me into their home like a surrogate brother, which is comforting. And, his mom would always offer me something to drink (one thing Bear himself can’t quite seem to learn. He always says that once you’re family you get your own drink. Hater.) Bear’s dad was in our Fantasy Football League, and was a lot of fun. He took all the good-natured ribbing with grace (the first year he was a bit….green), and was pretty cool about the message board, which with a lot of guys can get…well, you know. Then there’s Bear’s twin brother Mandela (who, in a strange coincidence, shares a birthday). Obviously as a twin the two are tight, but Mandela has never been territorial or uppity about Bear having other friends outside their circle. He’s one cool dude himself. Bear also has twin sisters…..but I better quit right there. I can take Bear, but if he gangs up with Mandela and Papa Bear….let’s just say I didn’t just hang out at Bear’s house for the stimulating conversation and great food. Wowsa.

#8 Generosity – This covers so many areas. For example, you know those friends you go to dinner with, and then you cringe when the bill comes, worried they’re going to leave some crappy tip, which is a reflection on you? I love being out with Bear, knowing he’s going to treat the staff well. This generosity extends to other areas. There have been times when I needed a loan, and there was never any question from Bear. Or if I’m short on cash, he wouldn’t hesitate to pick up dinner. Of course, generosity goes to more than money. It also includes time. One time I needed Bear to cash a check for me, and on the way he got a flat tire. It was a huge ordeal for him, but after dealing with it he still came all the way over across town to help me out. That’s generous.

#7 Quick to play along – We can be at a restaurant, or just hanging with friends and family, and I’ll start in on one of my complicated jokes, and Bear will instantly play along, riffing right alongside of me. He gets it, and doesn’t need a nudge to jump right in. With my sense of humor it’s tough to find a comedic partner, and to have someone who can so effortlessly get involved—even after months apart—is a special thing.

#6 Dependable – So many people in this world are flakes, I can’t even exclude them from my life (there’d be no one left). But it’s nice to know you can count on someone. When Bear tells you he’ll do something, he’ll do it. When he tells you he’ll be there, he’ll be there. It’s a comforting thing, knowing there’s one fewer person to worry about.

#5 Positivity – I’m not saying he’s a pollyana, but Bear is a positive person, which is ten times better than being a negative person. How many of your friends are just negative, tearing down any idea you come up with, finding fault, assuming the worst. It gets old, you know? I mean, he has his bad days, but he tries not to get down about it, and I’m telling you, it’s a lot more fun to be around a positive person than a negative person.

#4 Adventurous – Bear has uprooted his life on several occasions to do something completely different. I like that spirit. He’s up for good ideas, whether it’s a road trip or a good game of Trivial Pursuit. He’s changed careers more than once, and doesn’t let the nay-sayers get him down.

#3 Interested in Things – You know me; I’m a fountain of knowledge, and I get passionate about new stuff I’ve learned. Sadly, very few people in my sphere care about it. They don’t want to learn, to make the effort. Bear is always interested in new things. They don’t scare him. He’s like a sponge, wanting to soak up as much knowledge as possible. That’s such a great trait.

#2 Enthusiastic Support - Bear is a realist, pragmatic even (which was #11 when I set up my list), but he’s still supportive of great ideas. I love running new stuff by him, getting his take. I know I’ll get thoughtful analysis, including possible pratfalls, but I also know he won’t criticize the idea out of hand or be negative. Many of my accomplishments have been achieved with his help, or at least knowing he was supportive and behind me. Good stuff.

#1 He can go toe to toe – I love sitting around and discussing new ideas, but it’s hard to find people who are willing or even capable of slugging it out on a high level. Not Bear. He’s always up for a good debate. What’s better; while he has definite ideas and beliefs, he’s not so stuck to them that he’s unwilling or unable to be convinced otherwise. I don’t mind someone convincing me I’m wrong, but it can be very frustrating not to have someone just as willing. I know not a lot of people care about discussing the great ideas of society, but I do, and I love that he does too.

There you go. Happy Birthday big guy. I don’t want to short-change my other friend, so I’ll save her for tomorrow.