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A Genius for Friendship

Release Date: 25 Feb 07
Category: General Announcement

I’m not sure if this is really a news item or even something I should be posting, but it is weighing on my mind. It rambles a bit and doesn’t really have a point. I ask for your indulgence.


A year ago this week, I lost my father-in-law after a short and wrenching battle with cancer. "Senior", as I called him, was an amazing man. Though of humble origins and little education, he nonetheless succeeded at almost everything he turned his hand to. His success wasn't measured in wealth, but in the way he made a difference to those around him. As his son, my husband, said in the eulogy, Senior was a man with a genius for friendship. No matter the situation, be it a picnic in a neighbor's yard or planning strategy for a national organization, Senior reached out to people with openness and honesty. A shy child would soon be smiling at the paper boat Senior folded for her. A government official would shake his hand and declare him a "gentleman." Everyone around the dinner table would laugh at his jokes and poems, composed on the spot for our delight, full of puns, ribaldry and several languages. People in need knew that he would treat them with compassion, not condescension. He had not one, but two long and successful marriages to two amazing women. He raised a son who has inherited his father's genius.

Other things have happened since I lost Senior. Another family member passed away. My mother is slowly failing in health and I don't know how much longer I will have her. Two friends have had breast cancer scares - and for one, sadly, it is not a scare. She had surgery again last week. Another friend has spoken of a terrible grief that is ongoing, truly a nightmare I could not wish on my worst enemy. Yet other people, friends and colleagues, co-workers and fandom correspondents, have spoken to me of things that have afflicted them in the last year, events beyond the ordinary annoyances of life - losing jobs, tending ill family, being ill themselves, losing people.

A number of people who are part of the fandom have said that HASA is a place they turned to during their dark times, a place where they can find respite from fears and worries and friends to help share the burden. I think that is because there are people here who have that same quality as Senior, the genius for friendship, that transcends specific circumstances. I know I have turned to my HASA "family" over the last year when things were bad. I'll be doing so again.

There isn't that much difference between HASA and other fandom locations. It may sting my programming pride, but there is not much here that is different than what you can find on other sites. Simply put, the site provides a space in which friendship can flourish. It's not unique in this quality, either, but it is the particular place where these people have found what they needed to get through dark times.

The news last week about a few people plotting to poison the environment of another fandom site came at the same time I got word about the nightmare my friend is enduring. She spoke of HASA as giving her comfort. I read that and could not help thinking of the petty malice of the first group, how blithely they wished to destroy a site that no doubt has given comfort to its members in dark times. I was reminded of a passage from LotR:

"There they picked up the trail of the Orcs. It needed little skill to find.

'No other folk make such a delight of trampling,' said Legolas. 'It seems their delight to slash and beat down growing things that are not even in their way.'"

It takes so little to destroy. It is hard to preserve. Wasn't that part of what Tolkien himself tried to present? We need our fellowships. We need that special genius that cannot be found in a classroom or book, but is offered to us when we most need it. I'm not someone with a genius for friendship. My talents lie elsewhere. But it seems to me a good thing to preserve those spaces where those who do have such qualities can be found, and where people can find a haven - a Shire, an Imladris, a Henneth Annûn - from dark times.

Anglachel

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