A discussion of the value of friends.


Friends are an important part of our lives. I’ve heard it said that if you want to know if you’re on the right track, just look at the friends in your life.  They compose a reflection of you.  Clearly that’s an over simplification, but it does make sense.  I suppose some people think they can do without friends, but it’s a difficult thing for me to imagine.  Even our relatives can be our friends.  Of course, that’s not always the case, but it’s certainly desirable.  We need to have a feeling of support in our lives, people we can talk to about problems we have.  We also need people with whom we can share the good things that happen to us.

Friends can come from almost anywhere.  Sometimes they are colleagues first, and then over time, become friends.  Even people who were once married but currently divorced sometimes become friends. It can be difficult for superiors to befriend people who work for them, much as it is problematic for teachers to befriend their students.  It’s difficult to maintain a sense of authority when friendship enters the mix.

Many people live all of their lives in a rather confined area and draw their friends from a pool that undoubtedly goes through some changes, but remains pretty much the same from year to year.  Others of us have our lives divided into segments.  This is more than likely determined by geography.  If we live for ten years in one part of the country and then move to another part of the country, for example, we have to make new friends and associates.

For me, there have been a number of segments of my life.  I am still in touch with someone from each segment of life.  Old friends have the advantage time, but new friends can quickly prove their value in one’s current environment.  I spent a good many years teaching school.  Some of the friends in my life have been friends for many decades.  I’m approaching my 50th high school reunion.  I’ve stayed in touch with a number of people I went to high school with.  Former students of mine from various places I taught have become friends in a continued association when no superiority is indicated. This is a great blessing for me.  I believe it we Dr. Samuel Johnson who said that the secret to a youthful life was to surround oneself with younger people. 

A couple of weeks ago I took a road trip to the small town in Iowa where I had my first teaching job.  I haven’t seen most of those people for more than thirty-five years.  I can’t really call these people friends, but rather, past associates.  That changed in seconds once we reunited.  It depends on whether there’s any ice to break.  I’ve come in contact with many friends after long separations to find that we merely pick up from where we left off.  That, in my opinion, is an indication of true friendship.

I have called some people friends and then learned that their friendship depended on my agreeing with them at all times.  It’s deflating to learn that someone we thought of as a friend simply has no use for us if we cannot be of service to them, especially if we refuse to do their bidding in conflict with our own views.  Some friendships end up being one sided.  That’s much less satisfying.  Being a friend is a full time job.  Those interested in part time friendship need not apply.

We are most likely to have good friends if we can conduct ourselves in the manner we would like to see in our friends.