How do you make friends?
Why do you make friends?
Last month I went with my sister, Ann, to visit her long-term friend Shirley. And I mean “long-term”. They met at school when they were aged ten and life has taken them in very different directions – even to different continents. But they picked up where they left off as if the last time they met was the previous day. Shirley commented that, back then, I was the ‘scary big sister” and I remembered how envious I had been of my sister’s easy relationship with her school friends. Then I recalled my School Reunion in 2002 when I met my bosom pals Pamela and Isabel from junior school. It was just the same. Our relationship had lasted into the third year of secondary school when my Family emigrated – but we kept in touch by letter for several years after that. And now we try to meet up annually. What intrigues me is the amount of detail that I remember about my two friends. I know the dates of their birthdays, I know their siblings’ names – I know what jobs their parents held and I recall where they lived back then. All trivia that must have been important to my ten-year-old self. No phones in those days – we just turned up at each other’s houses. Isabel’s parents never turned me away. I even went on a country picnic with them after arriving just as they were leaving. Pamela’s mother never let me walk home alone but sent her big brother along to escort me. I often reflect on the difference with today’s generation of youngsters who are driven to school and have “playdates’ arranged by their parents.
It is my friends who keep me going. My Family is “there for me'” to use the jargon, but my late parents were and my siblings are in the USA – so is my older son. It is my network of friends who carry me through the trials and tribulations of daily life. Not because I set up my friendships this way but because that is how it is. An American lady, from New York (that says it all!), once told me that she give a person three chances to be her friend and if the person fails then that is that. Blimey! That is a bit drastic. How do I set about making friends? Well, I don’t actually – the one thing I do have to do is make sure that I do not accidentally un-make a friend through thoughtlessness, rudeness or lack of empathy. Easily done.
Last night I sat in the comfortable companionship of my knitting friends. It is an open group, so I do not know all of them very well – but our mutual interest in knitting and crochet gives us a head start. We may see each other again at the next knitting meeting or before that at the local WI – and some are meeting up to go running or to plan the said WI evening. And if I bump into one of them in the street we’ll most likely stop for a coffee and catch-up. That’s how it goes.
To quote Ralph Waldon Emerson, “The only way to have a friend is to be one.”
Sounds so simple. But it isn’t – you have probably met intense people who desperately want to be your friend when all you want to do is escape! When I was young, there was a knock at the door and my Mother said, “You answer it, Janie. If is Eva then I am out.” I was confused by the obvious lie but luckily it was just the postman. And now I am adult I understand: Eva was a dear but she could, as my Mother explained, “talk the hind legs off a donkey.” Mum could only sustain their friendship in small doses.
Friendship is the aim/ theme of social networking sites – which rather goes against the grain. I just do not see how someone I have made contact with over the ether can truly be described as a “friend”. Friends I made through “snail mail” I refer to as “penfriends” – so maybe social networking friends should be called “webfriends”?
When I was a youngster the Boy Scouts had a great slogan “Do a good deed every day“. Friendship is not just about “taking” – “what’s in it for me?” It is a relationship of give and take, loyalty, mutual respect and understanding.
The slogan of the Southend Sisters Women’s Institute is “make jam, make friends, make a difference“. Skip the jam making bit – the remaining words say it all!