Not long ago, I was reminded of an old story of two friends who exchanged the same Christmas card for over 40 years. Over the years they added new comments, but the card itself, weathered and worn, went first to one friend and then to the other, over and over again. In time, the card became much more than a card. It measured the passage of time; the good, the bad, the joys and sorrows of life, but it had an incredible history of its own. I know a lovely woman who always keeps the bows, ribbons and even the boxes of the presents she gives to her family. It’s not that she is overly frugal, only that she cannot stand to throw something still so useful away.
“In Spite of” and “Even Though”
While flipping through the channels of the television in my hotel room, I happened upon a reality show where the object was for the couples to fall in love at first sight, and then almost immediately after, get married! I was in shock. Just last week, I saw an article that mentioned the fact that nearly every one of the marriages as the result of that show has quickly ended in divorce. It was then that I decided that this foolish world had indeed become irrational.
Though the stories of the greeting card and the wrapping might seem unrelated to the reality show, they are two sides to the same story.
We have all too often become a throw-away society. I am not making a plea for responsible recycling, as important a topic as it may be, I am talking about how quickly we go around “friending” and then “unfriending” or “following” and then “unfollowing” each other. While I hate to again drag social media into the discussion, it indeed is part of the problem.
We are all very good at teaching our children and grandchildren to go out and make friends, but how many of us stress the importance of maintaining friendships? Of the two people who exchanged the same card over the decades, I am confident that they had their little spats, but somehow, they managed to make up and keep the tradition alive.
Why are we so quick to throw each other away? It is no secret that psychologists have warned us that loneliness and isolation, especially among Baby Boomers and older Gen-Xer’s has reached epidemic proportion. In our bid to “live on our terms,” or close off those whom we perceive to have outgrown, or moved on from or “don’t share common values with,” many of us have created smaller and smaller worlds for ourselves.
I am not endorsing friendships with mean, angry or biased people, but I am saying there is a lot of space between not always agreeing with a friend to rejecting and loathing everything about them. This especially seems accurate in these contentious political times. If a friend whom you deeply love voted for a candidate you don’t like, is that a reason to throw them away? It is a question that demands much deeper thought than a one-word answer. I know all too many people who reject an old friend in much the same way that a reality television marriage ends in divorce.
Have we have tumbled so deep into cyberspace, that our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts give us the model as to how we conduct our real-life friendships? Or should our real-life friendships be much more open, accepting and honest? Friendship is not “If” or “Because.” Friendship is “Anyway” and “Even Though” and “In Spite of.”
The Dangers of Delete
We can delete, unfollow or unfriend in the blink of a cyberspace second. When we do it online, perhaps it doesn’t mean all that much. When we reject a real-life friend, it can scar our souls.
I prefer to talk things out, to compromise and even to allow that things change. The issues that may divide us now may only divide us for a month or two. If we throw that away, is it worth it? Do we have so many real friends that we can afford to throw them away?
This year, let’s all try to strengthen, nurture and empower each other rather than rejecting, demeaning or belittling each other. A true friendship is a precious thing. It takes years of nurturing and understanding to make a good friend.
The cards we share and the gifts of friendship we hold dear are more than the temporary setbacks that we may encounter. The truth is that the more intimately you know someone, the more deeply you see his or her flaws. That is just the way it is. Love is choosing to serve someone and be with someone in spite of their blemishes. Love is patient, kind, and deliberate. Love is sometimes pain and sacrifice. Friendship is seeing the imperfections in another person and defying the impulse to abandon them.
Life is better with friends.