Friends

Ricciardo Gomez, Unsplash

I went to a luncheon today for a retired colleague at a fancy Italian restaurant in the District, Carmine’s. The food was fantastic, but the company was even better. Much better. The colleague was a lady I’ve known my entire career. When I worked in the field, my first 12 years, she was one of only two or three people in headquarters that you could always rely on returning your calls, and answering your questions. We didn’t think too highly of the folks in HQ when I was out there. Barbara was an exception to that.

When I came into HQ 22 years ago – which was much sooner in my career than I expected to make that move – Barb was one of the people I tried to be like, to always be as responsive as I could be to the folks in the field. It just so happened that my first day on the job in DC was also Barb’s husband’s first day with our agency, after having gotten downsized out of a job at another agency. He was coming to work for me! We got processed in together.

I figured, if he was Barb’s husband, he must be good. He was – good as gold. One the best people who ever worked for me. He had a ton of experience, and you didn’t have to spend a lot of time explaining things to him. You’d just tell him what was needed, and he’d go out and make it happen. He worked for me for 7 years. Through that time something happened that I rarely let happen with people who work for me – we became good friends.

Sadly, the last event I attended with Barb was his funeral, several years ago. But, this was a much more cheerful event. There were so many people I hadn’t seen in ages there, and one person I was hoping to see, since I knew she was very close to Barb.

I used to work for Karen, many years ago, when I worked for the Office of Public Health Science. She was the head of that program at the time, but also chaired a committee on the Codex Alimentarius, the international body commissioned by the U.N. to set global food standards. She would eventually go on to be the vice chair, and then the chair of Codex. Somewhere along the line, she and I became good friends, too.

I usually run into her at events like this, or if she happens to be in the South Building for business, we’ll usually catch up over lunch. She’s still very involved with the international food community, now working as a consultant to members of the Codex. She’s someone with a deep passion for food safety, who has had a serious impact on food safety, the world over.

As far as our friendship, she’s just one of those friends who, when you’re with them, you sit in the truth of things. If you are bullshitting yourself about something, the truth comes out with that friend, and you get clarity on where things are really at. Friends like that are invaluable to have, and one should consider themselves a lucky person to have such friends. I am a very lucky guy to have a few like that.

Twice, conversations with her have helped me to get clarity on positions I’ve been in at work, and following both times, I soon found myself in a much better situation. This time, we just caught up on everything that’s happened since the last time we had lunch together.

No matter what else is going on in your life, if you have a friend or two that you can count on – it really helps getting through all of the rest.

But when you know you’ve got a real friend somewhere,

Suddenly all the others are so much easier to bear.”

Jackson Browne, from “The Late Show”, a song on “Late for the Sky”

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