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5 Things You Can Do Today To Be A Better Friend

Your friend should know how much you adore them. Why put off tomorrow what you can do today?

What About Your Friends?

I've got a friend who has a friend who continues to make an epic fail move. Whenever my friend is going through something, rather than her friend asking, "So, what can I do?", instead, she offers up mini unsolicited TED talks about all of the things my friend could and should do to improve her life (sigh). All that ends up doing is irritating my friend and causing her to wonder why she keeps being vulnerable with that individual.

Watching those two with their communication ebbs and flows has amplified for me the importance of not being complacent in my own friendships with other people. Good thing too because I really do think that a lot of us make the grave mistake of thinking—which is more like assuming—that so long as we and another person have solidified a relationship, there's no maintenance—to a certain degree, daily maintenance—that needs to be required. That is also an epic fail perspective because being a good friend requires being nurturing, really learning more about the ones you care about and not waiting until special occasions like their birthday to let them know that you value them. Immensely so.

A lot of trials and tribulations have taught me that one of the best blessings in life is a true friend.

If you've got even one of those in your world and you want to do something to show them that you want them to feel, not just appreciated, but truly known by you, here are some things you can do TODAY that will remind them of just how important they truly are to you.

Tell Your Friend What You Like, Love and Respect About Them

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When it comes to keeping a relationship thriving, one of the worst mentalities that any of us can have is, "C'mon. They already know how I feel." Umm, two things about that. One, they don't know if you've never come straight out and told them. Two, think if your significant other only affirmed you twice a year. Would that be copacetic for you?

Just like a romantic relationship needs some verbal praise from time to time, friendships do too. Just think of how good you would feel if, out of the blue, you got a call, text or email from one of your besties that said, "I just wanted to let you know that you are one of the most loyal people that I've ever met," or "Hey Girl, I didn't want anything. I was just thinking about how dope you are and thought I should let you know."

In a world where most of us see and hear criticism and negativity more than anything positive, trust me when I say that you'll do wonders for your friendship, as well as the overall energy field of wherever your friend is at the time, if you make the time to tell them what you like, love and/or respect about them. Don't put it off. Do it now.

Call Them to Schedule a Date

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I once penned an article entitled "Why You and Your Friends Should 'Date Each Other' More Often". With the kind of hectic schedules and layered lifestyles that a lot of us have, it can be hard to even get in an uninterrupted 15-minute conversation with one of our homies. One way to remedy that is to schedule some time that is all about the two of you. It can be drinks after work, a date that centers around your love languages or getting together at one of your homes to plan a weekend road trip or a week-long vacation.

Dates aren't just a great way to get some much-needed quality time in. Initiating the date lets your friend know that they are on your mind and you love spending time with them. (Which will really go over well if their love language happens to be quality time.)

Randomly Do Something to Make Their Life Easier

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One of my girlfriends is going through a rough time financially right now. Although I'm not rollin' in the dough, by any stretch of the imagination, a motto I have with the people in my circle is, "I'm single with no kids. It's always gonna be easier for me to figure it out than y'all." (The "y'alls" that do have a spouse and children.) Anyway, one day, when she called me to vent, once she was done, all I asked was "So, what do you need?" I think sometimes a lot of us are so used to not being asked that question that our knee-jerk response is to say "Girl, I'm fine." That's just what she did and so I asked again. "If you were 'fine', I wouldn't have heard all of that. What's up?" She took a deep breath and then, per my request, sent me a list of some things that I could choose from to help her with. I was more than happy to do it.

Now watch this. When another friend of mine (someone who doesn't even know my other friend) called to see what I was doing, I told her I was rushing because I needed to help a friend out with some things that she needed. An hour later, a Cash app notification popped up on my phone. My friend had a note that said, "For your friend." Dope.

Something that life is teaching me is a telling sign that you're in a healthy relationship with someone else is the fact that their presence in your life will make things easier. Not harder. Not more dramatic. Not even unnecessarily complicated. Easier.

That's why I can confidently say that I promise you that something that will really move your friend is you offering to do something that will take a burden off of them. It doesn't have to be monetary. Maybe it's picking up her kids from school so that she can get a mani/pedi (or take a nap). Maybe it's helping her complete a project. Maybe it's having dinner delivered to her house so that she doesn't have to worry about figuring it out tonight.

It really does bear repeating—good friendships make life easier to bear. Do something that will convey that for one (or more) of your friends today.

Send Your Friend a Thank-You Note

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It really is sad—and by "sad" what I really mean is hypocritical—how many people teach their children the importance of saying "please" and "thank you" when they don't even do it themselves. Hey, don't take my word for it; there's science to back it up (peep "People Rarely Say Thank You When Others Help Them Out, Scientists Say" when you get a chance). It's unfortunate too because not only is not showing gratitude and appreciation low-key rude, it's how a lot of us end up feeling taken for granted in our relationships with other people.

Buck the system by sending your friend a thank-you note. An email is cool, but it is so much more personal to handwrite it and either mail it or give it to them the next time that you see them. Oh, and it will really warm their heart if your thank you is specific. "Thank you for when you treated me to the movies last week," or "Thank you for listening to me cry over him, again, the other night". It's amazing how cherished we feel when someone simply says "thank you" every once in a while.

Listen. Completely.

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One of the closest people to me has a gift that I am totally in awe of. She's an amazing listener. I have truly never seen anything quite like her. She doesn't cut me off. If I'm physically in her presence, she rarely breaks eye contact. Sometimes, after I'm done talking, there is an awkward silence. Why? Because she's actually thinking of what to say before she responds. Communicating with her has taught me to be a better listener, by far.

An author by the name of Criss Jami once said something very wise—"It's not at all hard to understand a person; it's only hard to listen without bias." One of the wonderful benefits that comes with listening to someone is they feel understood; with that, they feel truly connected. Be a better friend today by hitting up a friend, asking how they are, and then make it a point to really listen to their answer. An act as simple as this can be extremely impactful. I can certainly vouch for that.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

The 5 Must-Have Friends Everyone Needs

10 Things You Should Absolutely Expect From Your Friendships

Your Best Girlfriend Just Might Be Your Soulmate

How To Build A Squad of Empowering Friends

Feature image by Getty Images

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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