“A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter, he that has found one has found a treasure.” Sirach 6:14.
Do you struggle with friendship?
The older generation has a lot to teach us.
This is my Grammy. This pic is 10 years old, but it’s my fave photo of her from my wedding day.
She’s 82 now.
She has friends she’s known since high school. She has friends she’s known since kindergarten.
She calls them several times a week – and some of them every day! They’re still the best of friends, even the ones that drive her crazy and she gets into fights with. And she’s not alone in this; my 82 year old neighbor spends most of her day on the phone, calling and chatting with one friend or another that she’s known for decades.
Do you have many friends from high school? From kindergarten?
I have one neighbor who I consider more of a brother than a friend. But other than him (and family of course) I don’t have any lifetime friends.
That’s not to say I don’t have friends – I do! Some really great friends, some best friends.
But no lifetime friends.
And many of my friends my age say the same. They have little or no friends that they’ve known their entire lives.
What is the difference between the older generation and ours? Why are their friendships so enduring, and ours so… transient?
I think it all boils down to community and conversation.
The decentralization of community
My Grammy lived in a small town.
There was one school. There was one class. Everybody of the same age saw each other every day. They could walk down the road and see all their friends. People grew up and got married and settled down in the same towns they lived in all their lives.
Now, we are less locally centered.
Often, we attend Church in a different town, college in a different state, our job searches span the entire country.
We flit from community to community, never getting to know each other to the core.
Transportation takes us away
Transportation is not what it once was.
It’s much easier for us to break free from our roots, get up and go, and leave our hometowns behind. This for sure provides us with more opportunities. But it also damages the fabric of community.
My Grammy’s generation had no choice.
They lived their entire lives in built in communities, for better or for worse. But today, ease of transportation connects us to the world, while distancing us from our communities.
Friendships come and go as we move from place to place. People we once talked to regularly, we no longer see for months or years at a time.
The internet replaces replaces real life interactions
And as our physical community weakens, we turn to online communities to fill the gap.
Our social interactions happen over the internet, on social media. Communication is often by text, or email, or Facebook and Instagram messaging.
We no longer walk down the street to have a cup of coffee with a friend.
We don’t even pick up the phone and call each other.
We watch our friends feeds and updates online. We may give them a heart, but we’ve given up heart-to-hearts. We may leave a quick comment, but we’ve left conversation behind.
But my Grammy rejects social media.
And she picks up her phone to call me on a Tuesday afternoon.
How do we take friendship back?
High speed travel.
High speed internet.
Our pace is faster. Our lives are more efficient.
But friendships don’t thrive on speed and efficiency. Friendships thrive on timelessness and constancy. And these things are nearly nonexistent in this digital age.
So how do we take friendships back?
I may sound old-fashioned, but I think I have a lot to learn from my Grammy. And it starts with picking up the phone and making that call.
Not leaving a social media comment.
But calling. Hearing their voice. Engaging in real-time conversation.
Conversation is the fabric of friendship
The other day, my Grammy called me to ask, “Do you put on your pants or your shirt first?” A hilarious, absurd, unimportant question. But this is the fabric of friendship.
We can talk about all things – our joys and worries, our deep and profound thoughts, and our silly nonsensical musings. All these conversations are threads woven together create the tapestry of relationship.
If we only connect through means of social media memes and comments, our fabric will be thread-bare. We must take the time to invest in a tight-weave that will last through the wear and tear of the years.
It is in conversation that we foster deeper relationships, and in maintaining those deep relationships, that we will bring back the community that threatens to be lost.
Cherish the treasure of friendship
My friends are a treasure, and it’s up to me to cherish them. It’s up to me to choose not to leave them behind when life moves ahead.
My friends are worth the time.
The time to call them, to check in on them. They are worth the inefficiency of a coffee date. They are worth the slow pace of an afternoon spent together in real life, sitting on a couch in the living room, or a park bench, chatting while we watch the children play.
And if that’s not possible because of distance, they’re worth an hour on the phone while the laundry and dishes standby.
It takes time and effort, but all the best things in life do.
Our friendships will no doubt look different than the friendships of my Grammy’s generation, but from her I learn that lasting friendships are possible, even from the distances wrought between us in our modern age.
It starts with picking up the phone and making that call.
Do you have a friend that you miss?
Call them today.
Chat about your life, your worries, your fears, your joys. Tell them what you had for breakfast. Ask them whether they put their pants or their shirt on first.
Be real. Be silly. Be vulnerable. Be intentional.
Our communities are no longer built in, so we have to build them.
It’s up to each one of us to step back from the fast pace of digital life and begin to do that.
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