“Helping a Friend in Need,” column for July 24, 2012

What makes a friendship?
Six years ago, I left my life in California to start a new life with my new husband in a new world called Las Vegas. I hoped to stay connected to old friends, and also make a few new ones.
It hasn’t been easy. Keeping and making friends takes time and energy, not to mention attention, all of which I often seem to be in short supply.
Lucky for me, my old friends are better at friendship than I am. I will forever be grateful for how they’ve held onto me.
And new friends? Well, they may be few in number, but they are stellar in how they shine.
Linda is my “oasis in the desert,” the kind of friend you can pour out your heart to and know she’ll keep it safe until you’re ready to take it back.
Diana is a “money in the bank” kind of friend, one you don’t see as often as you’d like, but can count on if you need her.
Janette works at Trader Joe’s, my favorite grocery store and home away from home. She hands out food samples. I like to eat. When I broke my foot and couldn’t drive, she offered to pick up whatever I needed and drop it off at my house. If that’s not friendship, what is?
And then there’s Yolanda. That’s not her real name, but she looks like a Yolanda to me. I wish you could see her.
I’m not sure Yolanda liked me at first. Maybe she still doesn’t. But I’m definitely growing on her. We all have our gifts. Mine is wearability. I’m not the fanciest shell on the beach, but I won’t cut a hole in your flip-flop.
Yolanda seems to know this. She finds me interesting. I find her delightful. Our meetings are brief, but memorable. Especially this morning, when I found her in the rafters of my garage.
Yolanda is a black-chinned hummingbird. I met her soon after moving here. I was sitting on the patio missing California, when I heard a humming by my ear. I looked up and there she was, looking back at me. I held my breath until she buzzed away, then I laughed out loud.
That was the first of countless encounters. She tolerates me, but she’s sweet on my husband. Not that I blame her. He’s easy on your flip-flops, too. When he plays guitar, she acts as if he’s playing just for her. Which he is.
This morning I left the garage door open for a bit, and when I went out to close it, there was Yolanda darting frantically about in the space between the rafters and the raised door. It was hot up there, 400 degrees, give or take. I waved my arms, tried to direct her, but she could not seem to find her way out.
I thought of a hummingbird my grandmother once found speared by its beak in the screen door. She kept it for years in a jar, perfectly in tact, beautiful even in death _ but not half so beautiful as Yolanda in flight.
Suddenly I remembered the flowers my husband had given me: Gladiolas, red and yellow, colors that hummers and I love.
I ran inside, grabbed the vase, ran back to the garage sloshing water, set the vase on the floor of the garage and waited.
It took only a moment for her to spot them. She swooped down for a closer look, then vanished out the open door.
Next time I saw her she was nosing her beak into the feeder. I could almost swear she smiled and dipped a wing at me.
Some days, more than others, it helps me to remember the things I can and cannot do.
I cannot right all the wrongs in the world. I cannot make it safe for our children, yours and mine. I cannot stop a madman from standing up in a theater and shooting innocent people.
But I can do the best that I can, right a few wrongs, refuse to live in fear, treasure every day as if it’s my first and my last. And maybe, if I’m lucky, I can help a friend find her way.
I don’t know if it helped Yolanda. But it helped me.


  1. After two years of living in my condo, I finally hung a feeder outside my kitchen window, but it took six months for the hummers to find it. Now that they have, I love to sit on my tiny patio and listen for them as they dive-bomb in to eat. There are at least two, and one is a ruby throated hummer. If I’m wearing my red robe, they occasionally will come zooming by my head first, then head to the feeder. I love them! Gonna have to think up names now, though.

  2. Jon Kinney says

    Enjoyed this column immensly. Reads like a mini-novel….the way a good column should.

  3. You knew exactly what she liked. Like a good friend does.

  4. Davey Myers says

    You’ve done it again my Friend…tears and heartfelt feelings. You are amazing! Thank you for the reminder of what is truly important in our lives. Love you,

  5. A beautiful column. I enjoy your column and its conversational tone.

  6. phyl spoon says


    As I look out of our kitchen window at the fuschas (sp?)that are trying to bloom in the windowbox. (I have a black thumb) I look up at the hummingbird feeder above the windowbox. Occasionally, I need to water the plants in the box hoping that that is what is keeping the blooms small. Invariably, my hummer comes diving around my head. How did he (I think of it as a him, for some reason) know I was near ‘his’ feeder!. Pretty pushy, I’d say. That action was just the opposite of the one we had last spring. He used to eat and then go sit on a branch of the Japanese maple that is next to the window. He would use the protection of the canopy of maple branches to preen, and just hang out!. It gave me such pleasure to see his red head just relaxing after a tough day at the office.


  7. RoxieAnn says

    You continue to amaze me. Another beautiful article. You write as though you know each and every reader personally. Thank you.

  8. Another gem, Sharon. I’m sure Yolanda picks her friends carefully. In you, she, too, has a gem.


  9. Vicki in Monterey says

    Hi darlin’girl – I loved this one – Yolanda – crack me UP! Every time we’re gifted with such beauty, we need to embrace it…the Aurora incident shook my world … my son had visited a friend in Aurora a couple of weeks ago – he could have been in that theater – I hugged him extra tight that night and he shot me that look: “Oh Mommmm” … Embraced =)

    love & hugs,


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