We are on a visit to the US and my best friend from high school flew in to spend a few days. We’ve had a total “schmoozathon”.
People asked us what our plans are and we said, “To visit of course.”
We talked for hours each day, catching up on our roles as each other’s story keeper for this third and final season of our lives. I’ve reflected on what it is that makes a relationship endure all these years and why we always turn to each other when anything important occurs, despite living in different countries, geographically far apart. Whether marriage, divorce, a crisis with a child, a challenge in our work, a joyful event or a sad one, it is my friend that I turn to.
We met on the first day of high school, both having recently moved to a new town, feeling overwhelmed in crowded hallways full of strangers. We were beginning 9th grade and had to be “big kids” now. It was as if we took one another by the hand, saying, “I’ve got your back from now on.” We also exchanged mothers. Like a lot of teenage girls, we were breaking away emotionally from our own moms.
Evie took to my outgoing, vivacious and funny mother, who I found incredibly embarrassing, and I took to her mom, a soft-spoken, gentle nurturer who cooked delicious food. We constantly spent the night at each other’s homes, walked most of the way home from school every day, and then called each other as soon as we got home.
We have been through many life crises together without ever judging, just showing understanding, and always, always listening as long as needed. We trust that we can empty our cups with each other, receiving first receptive silence, then advice that comes from shared values.
As Proverbs 27:9 says, “A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.” The elements of a true friendship are trust, trustworthiness, the capacity to listen without judgment, and the willingness both to support and to confront, lovingly of course.
Above all it is the ability to be fully present to one another and to see each other through eyes of acceptance and love. It is giving help when wanted but not an overabundance of advice. It is the capacity to see each other truly, and to value the virtues and gifts each has.
There is an even deeper bond when friends share their faith with one another. The Baha’i Teachings say: “When any souls grow to be true believers, they will attain a spiritual relationship with one another, and show forth a tenderness which is not of this world. …that union of theirs, that connection, will abide forever.”
Hearing my own story about life in these islands, I see it with fresh eyes, as my friend reflects back to me her insights about why I am experiencing such joy. Here, I have close friends, a deep sense of sisterhood, family that has adopted me and my husband, grandchildren to love, and be loved by, and a community that shares our spiritual values as well as a cheeky sense of humour that we adore.
“All your life has prepared you for this special place,” she said, enhancing my appreciation and gratitude.
“A true friend is one who is willing to take us the way we are but is still able to leave us better than he found us.” (Marvin J Ashton, Latter Day Saints elder). Leaving my oldest friend, I feel richer than before, and confirmed in certitude about my choices.
I’ve learned that here in paradise, the same dynamic occurs. Working with students at college, I see that their friends are their soft place to fall, their means of surviving crises, a source of faithful love, and their secret keepers.
For boys, their teammates and their best mates are very important to them. To navigate the sea of change as they grow toward adulthood, they need shipmates on the voyage. With true friends, we know we are not alone in the journey of life.