Jan 13, 2012  •  In Personal, Relationships

Beneficial Friendships

My parents have always said that everyone needs the following three people in their social circle: a doctor friend, a lawyer friend, and an auto mechanic friend. The reasoning for this is simple, and it is so that you have someone you trust to give you advice and consultations on matters that could otherwise screw you over if you went to the wrong person.

When I was younger, my parents also encouraged me to study hard and attend a good college not only so that I can make a good life for myself, but also because they believed that I would have a greater chance at befriending those who would be in powerful positions as working adults.

At first, I was appalled at their train of thought. “Why would I want to take advantage of my friends? That’s just wrong!”

But now, I am seeing that it is not so black and white. Because we all could use some help in life. Because friends want to help each other out. And because even if I make less money than my friends, or am in a less powerful position professionally, I can still give to  them in other ways.

This is how my parents were able to provide good healthcare for our family for all those years without health insurance — through a doctor friend who never charged us for office visits, made emergency home visits when we couldn’t afford to go to the ER, and generously provided us with drug samples that would otherwise have cost us thousands of dollars.

And this is also how my parents saved probably tens of thousands of dollars in attorney fees and auto repair fees over the years.

In return, my parents provided them with free dry cleaning as well as my mother’s delicious home cooked meals. (I know that everyone thinks their own mother is the best cook ever, but my mother really is a great chef — her friends are always asking her for recipes, tips…she even gets “orders” for her turkey every Thanksgiving!)


Not exactly the “friends with benefits” I am referring to…

Luckily, J and I also have many friends to whom we can look to for medical, legal, and other professional advice. We certainly do not like to take advantage of them, but they have come through for us many times over the years. Like the time we were buying our condo and a friend of mine introduced us to a real estate attorney who handled everything for us without charging us a cent. Or doctor friends who provide us with free consultations and prescriptions over the phone or email without our having to set foot inside a doctor’s office. We try our best to return the favors too, in whatever ways possible.

Next month, my father will be going on a 5-day golf trip with his buddies to the Dominican Republic. Considering my parents’ current financial situation, the vacation would have been impossible if it were not for a friend who insisted that my father come too, and even paid for a large portion of the trip! This friend had also recently extended an interest-free loan to my parents for their business.

Now, this is not a meant to brag about the rich and powerful people my parents know, but I give it as an example to illustrate how generous and thoughtful good friends can be (this friend obviously knows about my father’s failing health and the stress he had been under due to their financial woes). It brings tears to my eye when I think about my father, who hasn’t taken a proper vacation in years, doing one of his favorite activities in a warm climate…and I can’t thank this friend enough.

If anything, I believe that receiving these generous gifts from friends would only cause my parents to want to give back more, and to share what little they have with others as well. I know that I certainly would.

I used to believe that asking your friends for professional favors, free consultations, etc. is totally taboo and completely imposing, but now I have done a complete 180. After all, who can you rely on if not your friends?

Do you share these types of mutual give-and-take with your friends?

4 Responses to “Beneficial Friendships”

  1. On a somewhat similar note, it’s great to have creative friends too. I swap my graphic design services for professional photography with one of my best friends. She in turn has a hairstylist buddy who trades hair cuts and color with practicing his own photography in her pro studio with all the fancy lights and backdrops. I barter web coding for swimsuits, and my contract employer often trades booths in her trade shows for their goods. So far she’s had dental work for her son, chiropractic alignments on herself and gotten her lawn manicured! It’s so useful to have a skill or trade you can barter with, because you’ll be able to get things you would normally never indulge in since there’s no monetary cost involved.

    p.s. I hope your dad has a great time! I bet the warm climate and relaxation will be so rejuvenating

  2. Definitely. We need a proper mechanic friend (only have a panel beater). We have electrician acquaintances, doctor, accountant, creative guy (designing my partner’s tattoo), musos, outdoorsy types (who could take us on cool adventures). I’m the kind of person who wouldn’t ask but if offered would accept.

  3. I completely agree with your mother. Growing up my mother used to say I should always have a doctor, lawyer and tax consultant among my list of friends. I am lucky in that I met a lawyer through horse riding and we’ve become great friends. She actually helped me with legal issues when I started working for myself last year.
    Through an NGO that I did some work for last year at a minimal fee, I met another doctor who run a wellness centre and another lawyer. Luckily I have become good friends with the three as we are all the same age group. I never saw myself doing strategic communications in the medical sector but now I have them through the doctor, who has also let me be the communications agency for her institute. The amazing thing is even though she is a doctor, I have gotten all my advice on medical messaging from her and whenever I complain about a certain ailment, she automatically gives me a consultation. At first I felt bad but I help her with writing some of her letters so in the end I don’t pay. The lawyer, I help her with a bit of PR here and there for her arts project. So even though she works for one of the biggest and most expensive law firm in South Africa, our company has never paid a single penny for all their services.

    An auto mechanic I might need now that my car is 5 years old and maintenance plan has expired.

    Happy for your father, the vacation will do him so much good.

  4. Nicole:

    Although, in terms of doctor friends, it’s considered unprofessional to prescribe for friends/family, as you are not impartial and may not provide appropriate care – and also tend to skimp on the regular history/physical things you would do with a regular patient. I’m a resident physician and I still go to my primary doctor for things, even when I wish either I, or one of my colleagues could take care of it more easily. Just keep some of those things in mind when asking for favors, so you’re not putting your friend in a compromising position. That said, I do offer advice freely to friends, with the caveat that they should see their family physician as well :)

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