Best Friends, friends for the moment, childhood friends, being a friend -- all these topics are covered
in THE GIFT OF FRIENDSHIP, a book of reflective essays about the treasure that true friendship is.
Bloggers and writers, some I recognized, many I did not, shared their thoughts on what friendship has meant to them, both on the receiving end and the giving end. Editor Dawn Camp wrote several of the essays herself. The cover of the book shows two Adirondack chairs on a lakefront, with two glasses of ice tea on an empty table. No one is sitting in the chairs, clearly meant to show that there is room to imagine yourself and a best friend sitting there, sharing the view, the tea, and a moment of time. This book would be a wonderful gift for a friend, but it is also a delight that you should treat yourself to. I received a copy of this book from Revell Reads Nonfiction for my honest review.
As soon as I began the book, thoughts rushed in about my friends, and I am sure that you will have the same experience. Now, your circle of friends will likely be greater in number than mine, but as I learned in the book, that does not really matter. Some people may find it strange that a person who chose to be a high school teacher (where you are always on stage in front of dozens of teens) is really an introvert, but I am. I have no fear speaking in front of groups, both small and large. Speeches -- I can excel at that, especially if I can insert a little humor, but social situations are a different story. Or at least I imagine it that way. So I've never been the kind of person who makes instant friends, and I've probably avoided situations where I could have made new friends. That has bothered me at times, feeling I was missing something, but this book has helped me see friendship in a different light.
First, I've been fortunate to have some very, very good friends, and as I read this book I wanted to reach out via Facebook or by phone to talk to each of them and to talk about this book. But since I read most of this title during one sleepless night, I figured they would not appreciate the 3 am phone call. Randomly, here are some of the thoughts expressed in the book. Life is messy, and friends go beyond the emergency baby or house sitter to fill the needs we did not even know we had. In the groups we belong to, we build community, often with people we don't know all that well, but they are there at a time or for a certain reason. We are called to be friends, and without being a friend, we can never truly have a friend. Sometimes we need to actively pursue friendships -- this is the lesson that this sometimes introvert needed to hear, and something I am working on now that retirement has given me the gift of time.
Another lesson -- Old friends are true joys. Sorry dear "old" friends, we don't really mean age, but in order to pass the friendship test of lasting many years, we do actually age and now "old" does describe us. I've been blessed to have a very good friend who was a friend back in elementary school. Then we went to different schools for a few years and met again in junior high where we became part of a foursome that lasted through those awkward years right to graduation. Marriage, kids, and distance in miles created years with not much connection, but there was always some. And when we did get together, it was always SO good. Meanwhile, life went on, with joys and bruises for both of us. And maybe it was the bruises that made us re-connect most recently. I thank God for that friendship and the freedom this time of life has given me to be "old" friends. I also thought of friends who were once also co-workers, and who despite moving on to different jobs or retirement have remained friends. And as a popular saying cousins are our first friends, and I have some great cousins to count as first friends, even though miles keep us apart.
Last lesson from the book (or at least I think it was part of the book because I kept thinking of it while I read) -- It is important to let your friends know what they mean to you. When I first went back to work, I had been an at-home mom for twelve years. We had three kids and I was in my mid-thirties. Despite my age, I was really a newbie educator and was so thrilled when I connected with another new teacher, a business education teacher straight out of college, the same college I had graduated from over a decade previously. For the fifteen plus years that we both taught at the same school she was a confident and great friend, despite the differences in our ages. When her husband's job took her out of our school district and out of state, I missed her so much. Life has never brought us back together again except through those Christmas cards and a few Facebook postings. Always she was thoughtful and caring, but the parting gift she gave me is one I will never part with. Both of us were avid readers, and as she began her family and I became the school librarian, we loved to talk about children's books. When she left, she gave me a beautiful picture book THIS IS MY WISH FOR YOU with a precious personal inscription that filled the entire endpapers. Just thinking of those words written over ten years ago brings me to tears. Tell your friends what they mean to you!