If you've been lucky, there's been people who entered your life for the sole purpose of being your friend, mentor, lucky star, partner-in-crime, even those who share your most intimate secrets, etc. They're people you can trust explicitly, never having any intention of causing you harm, and truly wanting the best for you and your family. There's a willing, mutual bond. And like a favorite movie or place to visit, they make you feel better just being in their presence.

un.con.di.tion.al is defined as: Without conditions or limitations. Well, that pretty much sums up what I'm discussing. But, let's dive a little deeper.

The Author's Note at the beginning of my novel, Sons In The Clouds states:

"This is a story of what it means to be loyal to those we love, and to feel the joy that a true brotherhood can bring to two lives. All human beings are conceived in their mother's womb alone, and then we die alone. Therefore, when unconditional friendships come across our pathways and prevail, they should be looked upon as blessings, never to be cast aside or taken lightly. Many in this world believe money is the water what quenches the thirst of desires. A true friendship, however, is something that comes without price."

This says a lot about how I feel concerning friendships, and I've based my entire book on this very subject. Even though it's a fictionalized story, the theme can be applied to all our lives.

We all have many relationships as our individual stories unfold. Some enter our lives for merely a season, coming to share their purposes then leaving us either better or worse depending on their intentions. Perhaps the chemistry between you wasn't meant to last, making it easier to simply part ways. Then, there are those which come to stay, often giving us a much richer value and sense of fulfillment. I've been very fortunate to have several, who I'd like to say are my friends no matter what. Some, have been around for a really long time, others, only a few months. But, no matter the length, what qualifies someone as an unconditional friend or associate is very easy to define. Here are a few of their traits:

Honesty. Can you be totally honest with each other about anything, even in the face of judgment? Or do certain fears between you keep skirting the issues. Honesty is a rare thing today. If you feel relaxed and comfortable around each other on this level, you have something truly unique.

Trust. Can you trust them with your private thoughts? Most intimate secrets? Do they know things about you that others don't? Do you feel totally comfortable with them? If they were put in a position of saving your life would there be no doubt they'd risk much to drag you through that blinding snowstorm or crocodile-infested river? A trustworthy friend is worth their weight in gold, and oh so rare to find.

Love. No matter who you're friends with, love is the number one qualifier because love is unconditional. When you love someone, whether it's romantic or based solely on friendship, an unbreakable bond is shared by both. You really like and care for them, placing the friendship on a high plateau.

Support. If you lost your income, were on the receiving end of a horrific medical report, engaged in a divorce, needed a helping hand on moving day, would your friends be there? Would they be the first to ring your telephone or doorbell, offering up a shoulder to cry on or helping hand loading boxes in the middle of a Texas summer? Would they listen to your needs, forgetting about their own? Would they be unselfish?

Respect. This is a key indicator of an unconditional friendship. If someone never lies or tries discrediting you in front of others (despite your differences), appreciates your time, builds you up instead of tearing you down, shows honor towards you and gives merit to your character, they are giving you one of their greatest gifts. Respect is indeed something to be earned. However, showing others respect is the truest form of integrity.

Encouragement. Are they always encouraging and trying to make you better? Does the tone of their words carry a lot of power and weight; making you strive harder toward your goals? Are they a light in the middle of a world filled with naysayers and negativity? Like I stated above, do they always have your best interest at heart no matter what others might say?

Consistency. Are they unselfish with their time? We are all busy, but if we're lucky, there are those who are always around when we need them the most. They aren't "fair weather friends," only spending time with us when things are dancing to a positive note. They plow through the dark times alongside us, and we do the same, never turning our backs while others run for cover.

Kindness. None of us are always happy-go-lucky and smile all the time. But, being kind to our truest friends is something that seems to come naturally. Kindness is a choice. Being kind to the ones we love is the easiest thing in the world to do. When you have an unconditional friendship, kindness is effortless.

Non-Judgment. Our society is filled with haters and people carrying around judgmental attitudes. Loyal friends never do this. Instead, they are the exact opposite. They love us just for who we are. What we are is never more or less than what is expected. Great is the friend who's happy just being in our presence. Rich or poor, sick or healthy, it doesn't really matter.

I wrote about what makes us have chemistry with others in a previous article. It was directed toward romance, but the same dynamics can be seen here. When we become friends with someone, REAL friends, it doesn't happen by accident. They always come to enhance and improve our lives. Whether it's helping us through a short-term situation or becoming a life-long companion, those who enter our arenas unconditionally give us a unique value.

One of the main characters in my novel was loosely based on a childhood buddy. We were great friends through elementary, and junior high school until my family and I moved away. Though I didn't travel far, our times spent together became few and far in between. We became reacquainted for a while during college before I decided on a different career path for a while. He graduated, became married, and joined the military traveling all over the world. We lost touch as our lives moved in different directions, until twenty-five years later when he came to mind while writing my story. One day, I contacted his parents who still lived in town. A few hours later, and several states away, we re-connected on the telephone like we'd never lost a moment. We shared about each others lives and rambled on like drunken idiots about our carefree days of youth. Now, we keep in touch sharing e-mails and occasionally talking on the phone. My point here? Some friendships are just meant to stand the test of time. It doesn't matter if you see someone everyday or loose touch for many years, there are those who are meant to play a part of our individual stories.

A favorite movie of mine is, "The Shawshank Redemption." When Morgan Freeman (Red) and Timothy Robbins (Andy) met, they were entrenched in the worst nightmare of their lives. They shared, fought, and came to trust each other unconditionally. They defended their common ground. When Andy escaped the stone walls of that prison, he made sure his friend knew where to find him so their lives, and friendship, could continue on. The final scene along that chalky-white beach pretty much said it all.

I hope the special friendships you share are many.