To give and to receive is never a balanced transaction.
When we are a child we receive. Our parents clothe us, feed us, love and support us. We give them a wonky mug that we made in art class, that isn’t waterproof and becomes a pen pot.
When we are in a romantic relationship (or even an unromantic one) we dance the line of equal give and take (although rarely giving and taking the same things). We are building a life together, and that life is by negotiation, by committee and all the more precarious and precious for that.
Friendships are different. Friendships are particularly special. Friendships are fragile and thus easily (although hopefully not lightly) broken. The only bond (at least at the beginning) holding you together is “I like you.” Friendship is a lesson in giving without any expectation of receiving. To accept a person wholly for who they are is a wonderful thing to do and to have done to us. To give to someone solely because we want them to have whatever it is we are offering, without expectation of reciprocation, is a beautiful thing.
Giving without expectation of receiving is the hardest bit to get right; that’s why you have to start it early. It is friendships that prepare us to be parents. To learn to give with only the hope of a leaky mug in return.