“To be rich in friends is to be poor in nothing.” – Lilian Whiting
“A friend is someone who knows your faults and likes you anyway.” – My Mother
Earlier this month, I turned 50 and three special friends took me out to a lovely dinner.
(On second thought, I’m not sure they should be called ‘special’ since they made me wear a pink ‘boa’ and a flannel headband with spokes saying H-A-P-P-Y B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y). On the bright side, one of my presents was a lovely picture frame with the word ‘Friends’ carved at the top.
The next week, our water aerobics class gathered at a local restaurant for a celebration of everyone who has birthdays this month. I started taking the class for exercise, but I’ve been blessed to have made dear friends along the way.
Just recently, our next-door neighbors catered and managed a wonderful anniversary party for us at our home. Not only that, a friend from church took the time to drive me to and from the Duke University Memory Center this month for my quarterly appointment.
And, when I first learned of my diagnosis, one of the first things I did (besides telling my family) was to call one of my best friends over to our house to tell her the news. I knew she would listen well, be upbeat and pray for us.
Which begs the question: where would we be without friends?
And what is true friendship?
One definition of a friend is “a person whom one knows well, likes and trusts,” as well as a person you know well and regard with affection.
Other words you may find in the dictionary are buddy, ally, chum, confidante or pal.
The common thread among friends seems to be shared activity – going out to lunch together; taking an art, needlework or exercise class; joining a book club or getting involved in volunteer activities.
In fact, I met some of my best friends through baseball.
It started when our son was five or so. My husband saw a poster advertising sign-ups for a youth baseball league, and we enrolled. At first it was t-ball. Then we graduated to coach-pitch. The Dads coached and the Moms cheered from their folding chairs (as well as brought snacks and drinks.) We rarely missed a game.
And, because we were together so much, we Moms – and Dads – got to know each other very well. When Cortland and his friends got to high school, the more professional coaches took over, but we still religiously attended every game. All of us watched when our sons were on the field, but I must confess there was a lot of chatting among the Moms– as well as building lasting friendships.
Even the workplace provides opportunity for staff to get together, learn more about each other and take the time to grow relationships. I haven’t worked in an office for almost three years now, but I continue to get together for lunch, dinner or visits with former colleagues when I can. (And as long as I stay in my ‘husband approved’ driving zone.)
Friendship, by far, is not a new concept. An age-old philosopher once said that “someone is able to assess one’s own life only through friendship.” Friendship, it seems, brings out the best in us.
Another expert says that friendship is ‘life enhancing’ because it makes us feel more alive. It also helps to promote self-esteem.
But that’s not all the benefits. Friendship also provides:
- The ability to live well with pleasure and interest.
- A tendency to look out for others, as well as the ability to provide sympathy and empathy.
- Mutual understanding.
- Reduced stress, and, if needed, the honesty to have a frank discussion with someone who may need help.
- A support system when someone is sick, or is out of town and you offer to collect their mail and keep watch on their house. (Neighbors – you know who you are!)
When I think about friendship, my thoughts often turn to childhood, when we used to have ‘best friends’ – sometimes a different one every several months. But we also had special friends we still remember today.
It’s been more than 30 years since high school and it’s amazing how the concept of friendship has expanded. Today we can connect with friends – or make new ones – through Facebook and other tools. We also use e-mails to communicate, often to arrange a lunch date, a group outing or just a way to stay in touch.
Indeed, friendship IS special.
And one of the best things all of us can do is befriend someone new – whether you meet them at a conference, the park, the grocery store, or standing outside a homeless shelter.
Friendship is a gift from God, and everyone should take care to make sure we nurture our friends as we do our family. In fact, how could you live fully without friends? In addition to family, friendship is one of the most important and fulfilling relationships you can have.
When you count your friends, you count your blessings.
And that in itself is a blessing, indeed.