Recently I was giving thought to all of the good friends in my life. Actually, I think about it a lot. So it seems to me now is a good time to rerun a column I did last summer about family and friends. The number of people I know in foreign countries has increased since then, which helps to broaden my understanding of life around the world. I am glad I can add to my list of friends. You can never have too many.
There is no over estimating the value of friends in your life. While you hope immediate family will always be there for you, in the mobile society in which we live they may not always be nearby. Your personal support network needs to include friends to whom you can turn in times of need. When I was younger and moved from apartment to apartment several years in a row, my friends were there to help me move. They were certainly pleased when I landed at my present location and stayed put. The important thing was their willingness to be there for me. It is a comfort to know that.
Having friends to listen at the right times is also of great importance. You may stubbornly think that you need to bear an emotional or spiritual burden on your own, but it does not need to be that way. Good friends will listen. They will offer advice when asked. Those not willing to hear you may need to be categorized as acquaintances or casual friends. It is OK to have plenty of them in your social circles. Good friends will populate your close personal circles along with your immediate family. They become your “extended family” which is so important in today’s world
Internet friends can now comprise part of your personal life. It seems an interesting phenomenon to me to have such friends. While a great deal of caution must go into cultivating this sort of friendship, it can have its own rewards. You may meet people with whom you can can correspond on a personal level. They may be able to help at various intellectual levels as well. Right now I believe I have three people on my facebook that I only know through the internet. Two of them I have known for years and perhaps some day we will actually meet. All three live in different countries.
I have met someone I had known for years just through shared internet experiences, all good, and personal correspondence. When we met he came with his roommate to visit. I had told him years earlier not to meet a new person alone, so this was fine by me. It turns out they are great people and now good friends. I consider myself lucky to have met them, although I still feel this sort of thing, meeting internet friends and expanding the friendship, is more the exception and not the rule.
My former place of employment had given me the opportunity to meet students from other countries though their internship program. In addition to attending local sports events with many of them, I have been able to keep in touch with some via facebook. In fact I am currently in France visiting one of my best friends and a former intern following our Olympic tour this past week. Email, Skype and facebook have allowed us to keep in close touch even though we are thousands of miles apart.
“You have more friends than I know people,” my brother told me at our mother’s wake. That’s because the funeral home was filled with an absolute gaggle of our relatives and my friends. My brother had moved away decades earlier so he did not know a lot of these people. I have thought about his comments a number of times since then. I used to tell people, “I have friends from 18 to 80.” This was largely due to our parish, community groups and even the internet. I guess I am lucky in all this to have so many great people as friends. Be open to friendships as they enrich your life.