Friends can come in all shapes and sizes. One of my best friends is 16 years younger than me. On the other end of the spectrum, one of my closests pals is 16 years older. I have friends who are my age--born in the same year--people I knew from my childhood or high school. It seems friendship is the great equalizer among humankind. You can be a friend to anyone of any age. And no matter what country you live in, or the kind of government that is in power, there is no law on the planet that disallows having or making friends. Sure, there are laws that may make it difficult, but friendship itself is not outlawed anywhere on the planet. Friendship is a natural right for all human beings. And it's a good thing, too.
Where would you be today without your friends? We've all had people there to support us through life--maybe parents, maybe other relatives, but a big chunk of our social support comes directly from friendships. Friendship is transferable, too. You can't buy it, but if your mother or father or grandmother or brother, etc. has a good friend, the good feelings of friendship transfer to you. How many of us had "aunts" or "uncles" we weren't actually related to? They weren't connected to us by genetics, but by the bonds of friendship. A friend of mine has raised her daughter to call me "Auntie Becca." It's not only adorable, but my bonus "neice" has had a true friend from the day she arrived--I will ALWAYS be her friend, by virtue of my friendship with her mother. From the day she was born, my "neice" inherited a strong bond of friendship. What else transcends circumstanes, genetics, geography, cultures, and religion in the same way? There is nothing that compares. Even a marriage can be dissolved. Friendships, however, have more endurance. A friendship can have enough stamina to traverse a lifetime. My grandmothers, both of whom passed away in the last six months, each had such friendships. It was amazing to see. As a child, I remember being amazed at the thought of having a friend for fifty years. My lifetime had just started. It was difficult to conceptualize having a friend for what was an eternity from my young perspective. Now, I've had friendships that extend beyond three decades...and counting. Of course, we've all experienced betrayal from people we believed were our friends, but the kinds of friendship I'm talking about are the ties that bind beyond blood. It's a spiritual connection, an intellectual connection--maybe it's a shared talent or interest--but whatever it was that first brought you to that friendship perseveres. I had a great friend from high school--we were incredibly close--like sisters. But as we both continued forward in our lives, we lost touch. Through the magic of social networking, we recently reconnected. Her first correspondence was, "You know how much I love you...." Not romantic love--but a kind of familial love that is chosen. We haven't spoken in decades and yet, that feeling of love and support remained. It never died. And never will. That's friendship. What endurance! And what a benefit to all of us.
A particular group of my friends helped me during one of my cancer diagnoses--my family was here for me, of course--but my friends took on things that even surprised me. Things like taking responsibility for getting me to physical therapy, staying with me for hours when I couldn't be alone, cooking my favorite foods so I would eat (I had lost 90 lbs during one of my cancer diagnoses...), taking me to various outings to raise my spirits--one of my good friends even hired an aesthetician to come to my home and give me a facial(!)--truly INCREDIBLE acts of friendship that were remarkable. I wasn't their sister. I wasn't their mother. I wasn't their aunt. I was just a friend. But with true friendship, there are no limits.
I was lucky enough to meet with a friend today and as we strolled along the canal, as we sat on a bench bird-watching, I felt this tremendous gratitude for the friendship. It's easy to take our friends for granted--and we all do it. But our friends help us through life's ups and downs in ways our family can't provide. Some of the best marriages are based on friendship. You're not related to your husband or wife or partner, but you love them beyond any blood ties--it's not about generics, it's about love. The act of friendship is an act of love. Even if we don't always recognize it.
Sure, you have acquaintenances who you may see socially--and while we need that kind of companionship, too--nothing compares to friendship.
You will of course meet people you hope to call friend and will be rejected--but it's just as well. Real friendship is what's truly rewarding; if someone rejects your friendship, don't think of it so much as a loss but as a gain. False friendships can bring you down as much as a true friendship can hearten you. Keep being open to friendship--to connection--and those efforts will be rewarded 100-fold.
Until next time, dearest readers....
PS: It's great to have friends, but what about giving friendship to someone who needs it? Go to http://www.bbs.org or the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America to learn how a gift of friendship can change a life!