“The only way to have a friend is to be one.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Earlier this year I reached out to my dear friend Tiffany, with whom I have been woefully out of touch since the 20th century. The Christmas card I had mailed to her had come back, undeliverable, and I needed her new address. I sent her a message: “Can we please catch up via phone soon? I’d love to hear about your life and what’s going on!”
Two days later, we talked and started to catch up on the approximately two decades of life that had passed since we last really connected. Despite the lack of attention either of us had paid to our relationship in recent years, our connection and friendship, based on shared memories and knowledge of each other’s pasts, personalities, and families, still felt solid. We had good laughs and somber moments as we reflected on our lives.
As the conversation wound down, I asked her about books she was reading and recommended Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings. I mentioned that I had given the book to some of my local friends and was hosting an annual “book club” meeting in a few weeks. She decided to read the book and fly out (from another state!) for a few days to join us for the book club dinner.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking – and writing – about friendship over the past several years, mostly as it pertains to kids. I’ve researched and written about social skills kids need and how to help them learn to resolve conflicts, among other friendship-related topics. But I’m learning that all this friendship stuff is incredibly important for adults, too. And that includes me. The older I get, the more I realize how vital it is to focus my time on the people in my life more than on my work and other achievements.
There are lots of numbers flying about in the research regarding friends and friendships:
- How many friends can you truly stay closely connected with? 3-5
- How many friends/family members will be around your deathbed? 8
- How many close friends (someone to confide in) do most people actually have? 2.3 (that’s two point three for those of you whose vision, like mine, has trouble seeing the dot.)
“About 48 percent of participants listed one name, 18 percent listed two, and roughly 29 percent listed more than two names for these close friends. On average, participants had 2.03 confidantes. And just over 4 percent of participants didn’t list any names.”
“Close Friends Less Common Today, Study Finds” Live Science
Regardless of whether you think you have zero or ten close friends, is there one you’ve been missing or wanting to reconnect with? Today I challenge you to do a quick friendship activity:
- Pick up the phone and call a friend to check in.
- Send a text message to a friend saying you’re thinking about them or asking how they’re doing.
- Write a sticky note with words of encouragement to someone who lives in your apartment, dorm, house, or tent.
- Write a note or letter to someone who is important to you and mail it.
If you’re thinking, “But I don’t have any good enough friends to call, text, or write!” then reach out to a family member. They are often some of your closest friends, anyway.
We are social animals who were made to connect, and we all want to connect with others, but sometimes we are our own worst enemy in forming and maintaining close relationships. We keep ourselves from connecting by our overly busy, self-focused way of living or by our desire to be seen in a positive light the way only social media – without the messiness of real life – can present us. It gets lonely.
In the past, I’ve found myself thinking, “It’s been so long, and I don’t have that much time to talk,” dissuading myself from making that call. No more. When a person pops into my head, instead of just intending to reach out, I’m committed to actually doing it.
Taking just a few moments to think about another person – and then connect with them – is how we nurture and grow friendships and bring more health and contentment to ourselves. So whether it’s a friend down the street, across the country, or in a different part of the world, why not reach out and connect today?
Next month, I’ll get to see Tiffany, and our other dear friend Erin, again for a birthday get-away to end the year.
This reconnection has been one of the highlights of the year for me and has been an excellent reminder that it takes just a few minutes to reach out to someone important. That message I sent back at the beginning of 2016 has led to the rekindling of a precious friendship with someone I know I’d like to be laughing and crying with twenty years from now.