‘Those are rich who have true friends’ an old saying that our mom quoted often, is so true. The importance of friendships ranks right up there with purpose, safety, and health for young and old. People generally have a few good friends, but by and large over a lifetime, most will have just one or two very close friends. I recall learning that a person can survive with only one friend. This week’s two-pronged goal emphasizes the importance of friendships and possible sources for potential friends.
Friendships fluctuate about like seasons where deaths, moves, graduations, births, illnesses, divorces, employment and sharp disagreements normally cause the most erratic changes. “I left all of my friends behind when my career took me out of the country”, one lady shared. Fortunately, sibling closeness often fulfills the innate need for friendships as one becomes acclimated to a new situation.
In a phone conversation, a long-time friend who had moved to an assisted living facility many hours away shared “Making new friends is very difficult at my age and I need some pointers. We have little in common.” she said. “And there’s little to do. I miss talking about my family with people who know them. I do have my dog, which initiates some chitchat.” My initial thought was the obvious, “He that has friends must show himself friendly” Prov. 18:24, but being outgoing and showing genuine interest in strangers requires stepping out of one’s comfort zone and is especially difficult for Introverts as they age.
Having something in common definitely encourages conversation as in the following: “Several families on our street with same-age children have gotten together for many years first through trading young child-care needs, then after school activities, music and sports that our children had in common. But now that our children have left the nest, we share meals once a month and even plan vacations together. However, we girls get together more often to gab over coffee or go shopping.”
Contrary to blaming the Covid mitigations that were put in place to slow the spread of the virus which we know drastically hampered children and youth socialization needs, I heard some surprisingly positive opinions from adults who said that rather than hurting friendships they were enriched as people reached out to each other, sharing in the dilemma. “I experienced re-connection with some friends with whom I’d lost touch who picked up the phone and called because they had time on their hands.” Another said, “Even though we were working virtually at home, it seemed to me that co-workers were actually more considerate of each other.” Shared difficulties, whether bad weather, travel or camping related, people seem to become warmer toward strangers and many maintain meaningful friendships for years thereafter.
Since socializing affects emotional well-being and also nurtures friendships, it’s understandable with the loss of a mate who likely may have been the remaining mate’s best friend, that they will be faced with having to restore socialization. That’s when the remaining mate is pushed to make new friends. Having friendships that span many years are viewed as the best, but as the example of V & J, males and females can develop comforting and meaningful friendships. The following stories feature people—over ninety no less--who having lost their mate have connected happily with someone of the opposite sex. Listen in:
Having a friendship with the opposite sex after being widowed for around 5 years…where do I start! I was doing very well just doing what I could, being myself and keeping up with all the chores that had to be done and was doing ok. My ‘late’ husband had introduced me to a little country church and that’s where this story started. I realized going to church was one way I could go somewhere all by-myself as that was hard for me to do because I’m an Introvert. A door opened up as I got to know a lot of people and even got involved in doing some volunteering. My daughter also got involved in this church and I said to her how nice and friendly all the people were. “Mom, why don’t you invite this widower I know from church to a New Year’s Eve dance.” She knew we both liked music and there was to be a real good band playing that night. It wasn’t easy for me but I asked him, and he agreed to go. We didn’t stay there the whole evening but, did see the New Year come in. Another door opened when he, in turn, invited me to go on our church tour to Kentucky to the Ark, and that was six years ago. We met in our 80’s and now are in our mid-nineties. We both have large families and know nothing serious could become of us being together a lot. We have become friends with each other’s family. We both have siblings and have developed mutual friendships with them as well. We do a lot of talking, traveling, putting puzzles together and helping each other get all of our ‘ducks’ in order for our ‘kids’ to handle later. We are enjoying just being good ‘ole’ friends and enjoying it. That’s where it stops. V.
This next account involves a friendship that was formed many years before between two couples. My husband and I became acquainted as G and his wife opened their home when we ministered to their church. These meetings happened every year, so we became very good friends. Then retirement put an end to our meeting agenda. G’s wife died and my husband passed away. G happened to be traveling to the city where I lived, so he gave me a call just to catch up on each other and our families. He’s made several trips and we spend the day together and enjoy reminiscing and showing pictures of our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Keeping in touch is good for both of us. J
Apartment residents representing a wide age-range on the floor of a retirement village after experiencing pandemic distancing have created a friendship circle after dinner nearly every evening for an hour in the convenient visiting area. They share career backgrounds, family, compare notes about the retirement facility activities, the committees they’re on and share funny stories. Their laughing and obvious good time attract people from other floors to join in--a perfect opportunity for enjoying and replenishing crucial friendships.
Singles and couples living independently who’ve lost friends and siblings are blessed if they have family living nearby but they are still wise to reach out to their neighbors, get involved in a church, a club or take part in community activities for socialization needs. Physical changes in our lives are often well managed but knowing how important friends are will hopefully energize those who are no longer in close proximity with their friends to go places, volunteer, take classes, go on bus trips, or to help others in such a way that friendships can blossom. I’ve mentioned neighbor Mark in many blogs, who originally was friends with Jim. Mark said “When I’d see your garage door open and hear the sound of tools, I’d hightail it over to see what Jim was repairing or building. We talked a lot about what we were both interested in doing. After Jim passed away, Mark made himself available to me for repairs, checking humidifiers, opening tight valves, silencing a beeping smoke detector requiring a ladder and snow removal, etc. He often texts: “I’m at Home Depot. Do you need anything?” And my needing assistance has developed into a special friendship. We visit as he works, and many times he comes over just to chat. Recently, he left for a 6-month Reserves assignment. I will sorely miss our visits and his vigilance. His wife, Krista, commented that he’s more like a son to me. She’s right.
Friendships are as necessary as sleeping, eating and exercise. Just like batteries power flashlights to light our path, friendships brighten our wellbeing as well, whether through letters, email, phone or in person. Also, a personal relationship/friendship with the Lord completes one’s emotional and spiritual needs.
Forever and ever, I will sing about the tender kindness of the Lord! Young and old shall hear about your blessings. Your love and kindness are forever; your truth is as enduring as the heavens. Ps. 89:1-2 LB Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. Ps. 119:105 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and he will direct your path. Prov. 3:5-6. Thank you, Father, for your faithful friendship and for the comfort that you instill.