A few years back, I did a post on “The Four Stages of Friendship” and promised I’d add another post about when Friendships end. Not through death or moving far away. The other kind of ending — the worst in some ways — endings that threaten your sense of who you are. Someone you once thought cared for you, no longer does; someone you once confided in, no longer wants you to; someone you once trusted, is now someone you don’t recognize.
That’s not this post. This one might better be titled “The challenges to friendship.” Let’s take a look at the following meme.
Over the past few years, I’ve posted this quote to my Facebook feed often and it generally gets lots of Likes. I recently spent some time with it and want to share with you what I discovered.
Become friends with people who aren’t your age.
I’m in rural Vermont and everyone I know seems to be a retired organic-tree-hugging-social-democrat with disposable income. As I think of the dear friends I’ve kept over the years — from my years living in Philly, Virginia, and Ohio — they too would fit right in.
This past year, I’ve had some interesting conversations with “young folk” (You realize that term covers a very wide range). Good conversations all, even a feeling of connection with many of them. Two of them are my grandchildren; does that count? I did learn a bit from each of them, though I was often reminded how tired I felt in their presence. So much energy!
Hang out with people whose first language isn’t the same as yours.
Again, living in a rural area, I don’t have simple access. One of the things I loved about living in NYC when I did (and Philly, but to a lesser extent) was how often I was reminded that my way was not the only way of the world. I found that stimulating, exciting in those days. These days, I believe I’d find it exhausting.
Still, this one is easy for me. As you may remember, I’ve been involved for a few years with the asylum seeker network and have had a chance to meet quite a few people whose native tongue was not English. Woody and I learned to say “good morning” in many languages. Does that count?
Get to know someone who doesn’t come from the same social class.
This one’s the hardest for me.
When I lived in Philadelphia, I was surrounded with opportunities to interact with people from many different backgrounds. I took it for granted that would always be the case. It’s not.
This is how you see the world. This is how you grow.
Our work with asylum seekers throughout Covid — sponsoring, hosting, visiting, corresponding with — kept us not only busy, but involved: involved in something bigger than ourselves.
Getting to know these brave young men helped us “see the world” — a part of the world we would never have really understood otherwise — and helped us grow. They’ve all moved on, out of our lives except for the occasional note or phone call. One was deported back to his home country and a series of posts on that will run soon. The rest are making their way in our world, this world, a new world for them. It’s as it should be. They’ve brought much needed labor to our somewhat depressed corner of the state and have been welcomed enthusiastically. They no longer need me and, frankly, I’m tired.
I’m at a place where I no longer want to see more of the world. I’m content right where I am. Is this just a stage of life I’ve hit, unawares? Or, are we in an era where we all want to hunker down with people we already know, familiar people, familiar routines, cherishing our comfort zones more than usual?
I really think it’s happening to all of us, to some extent.
I’m thinking of that old adage:
Birds of a feather flock together.
Well, even unfeathered metaphorical birds tend to flock together.
And as I write this, I’m reminded of a sociological truism, that when people are scared, when they feel threatened, when weltzschmerz (world weariness, in short) hovers over their lives, they tend to “hunker down,” pulled toward the familiar, not the challenging. Is that what I’m now doing? Is that what we’re all doing?
With our fears for the future of our planet, political clowns running our Congress, and the intentional spread of misinformation resulting in a voting population that is …., you fill in the word, is it any wonder I want to just hunker down, here in my woods, and stare at the trees?
As always, I encourage Comments below. I enjoy connecting with my readers and endeavor to reply in a timely manner.