The Gift of Friendship

I watched an interesting program this week on PBS. It was the story of a group of friends who had met while still in school. Instead of parting ways after graduating, they began a little tradition that spanned six decades! Once a month they would get together to have tea and enjoy some goodies and catch up on what was going on in their lives.

What fascinated me was not only the friendship they shared, but their faithfulness in making time to be with each other regularly. They thoroughly enjoyed one another’s company! “How special”, was my thought, “for them to share such a bond.” Is this what true friendship looks like? It’s one thing to read about it, and another to see it in action.

You would think making friends is not a difficult thing, but I’ve been scared of forming such bonds with others since childhood. Our family was never in one place long enough for any of us to form meaningful friendships. People would come in and out of our lives. I never knew who was temporary and who wasn’t. And being shy and socially awkward certainly didn’t help either. Plus, growing up, I couldn’t really identify with the majority of my peers. I felt like an old soul, I still do. I liked being with older people instead, but they didn’t view me as a “friend”. I was simply a curious girl who liked listening to their stories. So seeing others go about easily forming friendships was intriguing. Being friendly with people wasn’t the problem. It still isn’t. Taking it a step further was (is). As I get older, I recognize more and more the value and benefit of good friendships. Simply surrounding ourselves with people doesn’t make us feel fulfilled.

What is it that sparks that kind of connection? Is it simply having the same interests? Personalities clicking? What makes personalities click anyway?! It isn’t like learning math, where the principles never change. Adding is adding, subtracting is subtracting. People, on the other hand, ¬†grow and change. Sometimes they become better people, sometimes they don’t. They can like you one day and not acknowledge you the next. They can meet someone else who is more interesting, and leave you feeling left out. Yes, we’re complicated beings!

I’ve learned that if that kind of drama characterizes our friendships, then we still have some maturing to do (I include myself in here!). Good friends are those who help us grow. They inspire us to become better. Their connection to us isn’t one of extreme neediness, they give space. They won’t call you only when they need something, or do all the talking either! Making friends isn’t science, but if we make observations, these will help us know if the relationship is a healthy one; if it is, it makes us better, if it’s not it exhausts us.

Going back to that group of old friends, I can see why they wouldn’t let anything interfere with their get togethers. They truly appreciated the value of their friendship. It had helped them endure the death of loved ones, the stress of raising a family, and loss of health. The widows among them didn’t feel lonely. They even reached out to another woman who had been a former classmate, when they realized that her group of friends had all succumbed to death. They didn’t want her to feel alone!

That’s not the kind of friendship I was able to offer until recently. I had to mature in order to have something genuine to offer others. I can now seek out those who in the past offered me that kind of friendship, and those who I’ve yet to meet, and reciprocate it.

There’s no substitution for that kind of connection. It’s a blessing,… a gift.

Love you guys ; )