Necessary Gifts

Friends. We want them. We need them. I’ve heard it said that friends are a gift that you give to yourself. Hmmm, I wonder. . .

I grew up in a small farming community with my friends. Most of my graduating class had been together for 12 years, and a select few and even gone to kindergarten together. Our parents had grown up together. Many of our teachers had either taught our parents or gone to school with them. We had cousins, aunts, uncles and siblings in our school life. We played in different groups and made friends and best friends. It wasn’t hard.

When I ventured across the state to attend college, I stepped into a world of unknowns. I had to meet new people and make new friends. It was scary and exciting. I discovered that people did like me even when they had other options. I was still the “mother” in the group and they still liked me. Many of my fondest college memories are from my early days of dorm life, doing life as a pretend adult with my new friends. And, they’re still friends today.

After graduation, I moved to the big city to work. Finding friends was a bit more challenging. I had work friends, but longed for the close friendships of college. For the first few months of my new life, I had a very predictable schedule: Get up and go to work, come home and fix supper, eat and do the dishes, go to bed. Many days ended before 7:00pm. I searched for a church home, but had a hard time finding a welcoming singles group. I fell back on my college relationships and held on to the past. It was the end of my first year in Houston when I found a church that needed me as much as I needed it. The singles group was just starting at Spring Woods. I watched it grow and change thru the next four years. I made many friends over the years. Many people came thru my life during that time. A few became fast friends. And, one became my closest friend. I married him.

As my husband and I negotiated married life, our circle of friends changed. We had ministry friends that came into our lives and them moved on to other areas. Many of our relationships were based on our kids. Children became the common thread. As our kids moved thru school, we got to know different parents. And as sports and band took center stage, we spent a lot of time with the other parents. It seemed there wasn’t much time to develop deep relationships. There were friendships, but I always felt a little separated, distant. I had my family and really didn’t have the energy to truly invest in others. The hardest distance to cover between two people is often measured in inches.

And then the world crumbled around me. My new identity was widow, single-mom. Suddenly, I needed friends. I discovered how important it is to invest in friends. The distance I had felt seemed to disappear into comfort, familiarity and safety. Dear friends didn’t miss a beat. I survived those months on the kindness and love shown to me by friends, both old and new.

I find it amusing when listening to my daughter and her friends describing each other. The term “best friend” or BFF comes up in every description. With the use of social media such as FaceBook, it’s quite possible to see the same young woman post about her bestie five times in a row and mention a different “best friend” every time. When I question how one can have more than one BEST friend (much less five or eight), I usually get an eye roll accompanied by “You just don’t understand!” For some reason, I don’t think I’m the one that doesn’t understand. But, maybe these twenty-somethings have it right. I often complain of being lonely while hiding behind my own self-erected barriers. I can be with a group of people and feel that I might as well be a thousand miles away. If friends are a gift that you give to yourself, then is too much “me” a problem? Do I manufacture Distance and separation in an attempt to control all circumstances? Have I forgotten what it means to be a friend, much less a BFF?

Fortunately, I have been given the great gift of friends. I have many acquaintances and casual friends. But most importantly, I have a few very special and dear friends. Friends that are not offended by the REAL me. Friends that are there for tears and the laughter. Friends that share the real stuff that invades our lives. Friends that are there even when I’m NOT a very good friend. I treasure these friends. I don’t know that I will ever be able to fully explain how important their gift of friendship is to me.

Friends. I want them. I need them. I will never again take the gift of friendship for granted. I have the BEST friends.

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