There are those friends in life who have such a way with a turn of phrase that they always keep you smiling, at least, or laughing, at best.  I have such a friend, and no matter how poorly I may feel on any given day, her phone calls are sure to lift me out of the doldrums.

Today, as we shared our growing need for being frugal, she admitted she had acquired the gift of her grandfather and developed “a talent for the tape.” She was referring to duct tape, a staple used by her grandfather to hold together his car, and just about everything else that needed repair.

My dad, who was also a duct tape aficionado, grew up during the depression. His motto was “Why buy new when you can fix it with tape?”

My husband, born in a different generation but with lots of mouths to feed, had a similar motto, so duct tape was the go-to for all possible repairs, and, in his case as a carpenter, as the occasional bandage, as well. He even has a wallet made out of duct tape, a gift from his sister.

This morning, just after my uplifting phone call with my friend, I noticed my husband going out the front door wearing his brown work boots held together in the front with silver duct tape – like some weird version of a 1920s two-toned lace-up.  I couldn’t stop laughing, but had to admit that was a $50 savings right there.

“Have duct tape, will travel,” he laughs.

It occurred to me that friends are like duct tape – invaluable, flexible, reliable, helping you hold things together when you are torn or broken, or simply brightening up your life with their many colors and patterns.  And yet, there is a deeper dimension to friendship that holds friends close to our hearts.

Father Henri Nouwen describes it beautifully in his book “Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life:" “When we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”

When I read these words I am reminded of those times when Jesus most needed this kind of friend.  I think of the moving painting by Carl Heinrich Bloch of the Scripture story of the angel who comes to comfort, encourage and strengthen Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane before his arrest.

And I think of Mary, Jesus’ mother,  and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala standing at the foot of the Cross with John, the beloved disciple.  In their own weakness they faced the reality of Jesus’ chosen powerlessness. They offered no advice, no solutions, no cures, but each would have touched his wounds with warm and tender hands if they could.

Friendship, wrote Father Nouwen, “is one of the greatest gifts a human being can receive. [It] is being with the other in joy and sorrow, even when we cannot increase the joy or decrease the sorrow. It is a unity of souls that gives nobility and sincerity to love. Friendship makes all of life shine brightly.”

In their light, we can appreciate the gracious words of St. Theresa of Avila: “What a great favor God does to those who he places in the company of good people.”

Mary Morrell is the author of "Things My Father Taught Me About Love," and "Let Go and Live: Reclaiming your life by releasing your emotional clutter," both available as ebooks on