‘With a little help from my friends’

When you hear former NFL Quarterback Jake Plummer describe Pat Tillman, who left a lucrative NFL career to become a U.S. Army Ranger and who died in a friendly fire incident in 2006, you find yourself wishing that you would have had the chance to get to know him too.

“I met Pat my sophomore year at Arizona State University and immediately liked him; he was confident but not cocky, smart yet not demeaning. He was a fierce competitor, an undersized fighter with an oversized passion for life. And best of all, he said ‘Dude’ all the time.”

Tillman comes across as the kind of friend and supporter that we all would like to have. Plummer and others who knew him use words like “true hero” . . . “lived life to its fullest” . . . and “trusted friend.”

“I think about Pat often, not simply for that failure of mine to be as a good a friend to him as he was to me in a critical moment. I just miss him. I’m sad he’s not around to drink a Guinness with me. But still, I feel lucky to have known him.”

Plummer talked about Tillman in a recent Sports Illustrated story and it got me thinking about Tillman’s heroism. But even beyond that, I reflected on the way he lived his life and the example he led for others. I’ve had some great friends over the years, but it made me think of how we all could be better ones, how I could be better one like Tillman.

Being a friend’s friend

For me anyway, my best friends have been the ones that I can trust with anything, who I can be completely open and honest, who get my sarcasm and humor and give it right back to me, who let the judgments to others, who listen and who look out for me and put time and effort in to the friendship.

Obviously, these are tough standards for anyone and I don’t have the answers on how to be a better friend. Friendships though matter now more than ever.

Several recent studies have found that the quality of our friendships has a significant effect on our health and well being. In fact, in one study, people with larger circle or network of friends tended to outlive those with fewer friends by more than 20%. The researchers contend that the friendships helped ward off depression, boost self-esteem, and provide support.

Rock-hard friends

If nothing else, I take courage from Plummer’s words about how Tillman still helps him today.

“I still draw inspiration from his legend. He showed me it’s okay to believe in yourself and your cause; you know it’s right if it comes from your heart and you bring it with all you got. Never lose your fight, treat people right, never be dull and continue to challenge yourself to be a better person.”

Sounds like something for all of us to strive for in our own lives.

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