This I Believe
I believe in friendship. So much is made these days of the importance of family. Families are great, but let’s face it, most of us have one, and we didn’t get to choose who was in it. Friends are our families of choice, but they are families that are getting smaller for many people. Recent studies show that most people have only two close confidants in their lives, and a quarter of those surveyed said they have no one at all who fills this role.
I consider my friends my greatest wealth. I am amazed by the people that they are: artists and adventurers, dedicated parents, scientists, teachers, great conversationalists and committed companions. I am also in awe of the odd circumstances by which friendship happens. If I hadn’t struck up a conversation with the person next to me on that long delayed flight back in 1984, I wouldn’t know my friend Monica today. If I hadn’t placed an ad for someone to drive cross country with me in 1977, I wouldn’t have been camping that night in South Dakota and would not have met Jon, a close friend to this day. My friendships form a web, from the person I met from the ad in the paper, to the guy in the campground, to the Dutch woman who writes about desert nomads, to the young student studying chimpanzees in west Africa, to the woman creating an artists’ colony in Belgium. I may not see any of these people for years, but I believe I will see all of them again, because I believe the bonds of friendship transcend time and distance.
Friendship requires stepping outside of yourself, of taking a chance, of risking the unknown. All friends begin as strangers, and there is that first moment of choice– whether to begin a conversation or not, whether to look up or look away. Friendship requires compassionate curiosity about the stranger and an openness to learning about someone who is different from yourself.
Jesus is reported to have said, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” I have always been struck by this passage. He did not say, he who would lay down his life for his family, or his children, or even his country, but a friend, a person who at one point was a complete stranger, an unknown, and who is now worthy of the ultimate sacrifice.
I believe in the power of friendship to save the world.
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