| from John Hannigan |


“GO TO CLASS…,” Kate had startled me awake. She had discovered me sleeping under the counter in her office, again! I had been napping, and possibly skipping class. Kate was the social worker in my high school, and was the sponsor of SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), along with other things, and is 27 years older than me. I spent a lot of time in her office, working on projects and building programs and initiatives that would impact the student body. I learned about idealism, persistence, and that you could make curtains out of flat bed sheets if necessary! Kate was there at a time when I was wandering aimlessly into adulthood, totally incapable of dealing with what was ahead.

I was involved in basically everything that she did in high school, and over time a real genuine care and concern for each other developed. The week before my high school graduation she joined my mom and me for dinner to celebrate. It was at this dinner, in a booth at the Cheesecake Factory on the Country Club Plaza, that she told me our relationship was changing. She was no longer an escape from class, an easy ear to bend, and an authority; she was now a friend. As friends we were now equals, and this meant joint responsibility to nurture this new venture. For as of right then, this would be an unpaid friendship. She didn’t have to connect with me, I wasn’t one of her students. 

Paid friendships are an interesting concept, so let me explain. When we lived in Houston I liked to buy my wife, Melissa, Chanel. Handbags, jewelry, shoes, clothing –  she got it all. Gaby, one of the clerks at the store I frequented, became my friend. She knew our anniversary, the kids’ birthdays, our birthdays, and so many other details. She called and texted me regularly. We were friends. When I stopped buying Chanel, Gaby kept calling and texting and I knew we had a real friendship. But after 6 months, there were no calls and no texts. Then I texted her “congrats” on something, but she didn’t respond. She was a paid friend. To be fair Melissa told me this multiple times. But that’s the thing about us husbands; we don’t always like to listen to our helpmate. Okay, back to Kate!

This wasn’t an easy transition. Out of sight, out of mind. I had moved to Georgia, Boston, and last to Florida. Long talks in her office were replaced with sporadic phone calls. She followed along as I walked through life. Her voice was present in my mind, her funny sayings and wise moments woven together in a way that came out in the most poignant of times. 

But something new was happening. She was beginning to share her life with me. Holes in guarded and calculated stories were now being filled in. The relationship had changed, and that meant something. Transparency was the name of the game, and she gave what she expected – absolute transparency. She shared life with me as I did with her, she saw me, and allowed me to see her, even when it wasn’t great. 

When I made the decision to get married she came down to Florida for the wedding. She was there, as a supportive friend, to lend a hand where needed. Months later she celebrated when Melissa and I announced that we were going to have our first child. After moving back to Kansas City for seminary, our second child was born. She sat in the waiting room with my mother-in-law waiting to hear the first cries.

As I added a wife, kids, work, and so many other things to an already full life, Kate was there without an expectation of a call, an interaction. She also began to develop a friendship with my wife and my kids (who refer to her as aunt Kate).

When we lived in Kansas City, she moved across the parking lot in the same apartment complex. We were back to an easy walk apart, not down the hall, but across the parking lot. This was a welcomed change. She opened her life to us, now not just me, but Melissa and the kids, too. When she was making this move, Melissa and I went to help her pack. She was embarrassed of the state of things, but trusted us, and allowed us to help clear away and prepare to move. It got easy to be in relationship with her again. But then the relationship shifted again. We were leaving, moving back to Florida, and it got weird. 

Kate had loaned me money for the move and I wasn’t able to pay it back. She didn’t care, but I did. I was embarrassed. The relationship stopped. For almost 2 years I didn’t speak to her. It was terrible. I had lost a friend, and in my mind I would never gain her back. But then her voice was there, “YOU can fix this, pick up the phone and call.” So much of the wisdom she had spoken to me was still there. Her impact was strong. I heard the voice, I trusted the voice, but I couldn’t do it. This was the end of the line, our friendship was done. I couldn’t pay the bill.

Though you have read a lot about me and my friend, Kate, I pray that you will see yourself in this, either as Kate, myself, or maybe a little bit of both. What can you learn from us?

Have you ever had a friendship that you walked away from thinking there was no other option? Does the story end there? 

Come back on Friday to read what happened. It may surprise you!


John Hannigan has been passionate about helping both businesses and families for over twenty years. Married to his best friend, Melissa, and father to four wonderful kiddos, John’s passion and zest for life keeps him and his family always ready for the next adventure. Whether he is leading mission trips to Puerto Rico, serving families in his local church, guiding strategy and vision sessions with his clients, or taking his family on a spontaneous trip while keeping everyone laughing, John glorifies God each day by using the talents and gifts he has been given. He is excited to contribute to the Celebrate Kids team.