Sunday, June 16, 2019 06:41

African Casserole Friends

One of my closest friends is African. He told a story once that really stuck with me.

He’s a very perceptive guy and keenly observant as to the cultural differences between Americans and people in his homeland. One day, he was talking about the superficial nature of American relationships and said he really didn’t trust most Americans because the relationships are easily sacrificed for selfish aims. In Africa, friendships are much deeper because frequently, people’s lives depended on them. American can sacrifice relationships much easier because there are little or no consequences for doing so.

I asked him if he knew any Americans that measured up to the “African” standard.

He said that I did.

I was quite touched by that.

I do get the sense, however, that I work in an industry that, at its core, has a fairly decent number of “African Friendships”. There is a pretty strong bond between people that have been around search marketing since the early days. Even between people who haven’t met or have only seen each other briefly at a conference, I think that there is a strong enough connectedness between a large number of folks so that if someone in the community had a real need and had to reach out to others for help, many would not only come to the person’s aid, but would even go well beyond what was necessary to render assistance. I also think that many of these relationships are latent and not necessarily known to either party until a moment of need brings the friendship to the surface.

I’ve seen multiple examples of this through the years though to call them out here cheapens the point I’m trying to make.

Speaking of which, that reminds me of another story…one my father told me…

He had some friends in Savannah and the wife was much younger than the husband. Out of earshot, the wife happened to say that if something happened to her husband, she wouldn’t stay in Savannah even though it seemed like she was pretty deeply integrated into the community.

My dad ask why she would leave when she had a seemingly wonderful life.

She told him that she was surrounded by “Casserole Friends”.

I hadn’t heard the phrase before, so my dad explained it to me.

When someone dies, people come around to express condolences. Frequently, they bring food since the bereaved isn’t really in any mood to cook for themselves. In the South, casserole is a popular dish to bring in such a situation…or, whatever is cooked, it is brought in a casserole pan. The person eats off the food for a while, and after a reasonable time, the casserole dish is retrieved…and after that takes place, the people drift apart and the relationship ends.

This tale pre-dates social media, where relationships, at some level, can go on forever and people don’t really ever need to fall out of touch. However, there is a big difference between the frequently mindless banter that goes on online and the real relationships that have a traditional component to them. It isn’t that often that the duties inherent in an “African Friendship” come to the surface and how a “friend” reacts to performing them is a pretty good indication of the strength of the relationship.

I hope I never need to depend on others in the same way as my friend did back in Africa. However, I believe I know quite a few folks in my circle worthy of the concept that I’ve spent this blog post describing and I hope that, for others, I can live up to the concept of friendship that my African friend made me aware of.

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