Autumn has always been my favorite season – the crisp air, the colorful changing of the leaves (not raking them, of course), and the spirit that seems to positively reverberate as we near Thanksgiving. Since it is a non-denominational holiday, it always makes me grateful, particularly for friends.
As an only child I learned at an early age the value of friendship. Let’s face it, without the benefit of brothers or sisters if you’re not nice, willing to listen, and fun (at least to some degree), no one wants to hang around with you. As adolescents, we tend to choose friends with similar interests — sports, school activities, youth organizations, church groups, etc., and this trend sometimes carries over for the rest of our lives. We befriend individuals we see on a regular basis because we share some common denominator.
However, often as we move through life we shed friends, whether that be out of necessity or intentionally. A few of these once-valued individuals are replaced with others who may be more easily accessible, share new interests, can advance our careers, or even simply those who get along with our spouses or children — it’s just easier.
In contrast to this pattern, I’d like to suggest a line from a song that used to be sung at the end of every meeting of the Brownies (or, was it Girl Scouts? — so long ago, sorry!). “Make new friends, but keep the old — one is silver and the other gold”. Granted, as we have all come to know, this is easier said than done.
A Friendly Reminder
Numerous articles have been written, mostly by psychologists, about the importance of friendship. It offers a lot of benefits.
- A lower stress level (this was discovered in a study at the University of Michigan; lead author, Stephanie Brown, PhD at Stony Brook University’s Renaissance School of Medicine)
- A higher average cognitive performance (Northwestern University’s Amanda Cook Maher, PhD, can be credited with this finding)
- A longer life (Nancy Freeborne, of George Mason University contributed this bullet point)
- A healthier lifestyle (kudos to Jenna Glover, PhD, at Children’s Hospital in Colorado for this result)
- A higher-ranking leadership position or more successful career (again, Jenna Glover).
Obviously, having friends and being a good friend are both important to success in life but perhaps the Beatles said it best: “I get by with a little help from my friends.”
‘Thank you for Being a Friend’
According to psychologists, the eight crucial factors to being a good friend are simple: Priority, self-disclosure, touch, affection, loyalty, independence, acceptance, and willingness to change. Please note, in this case we’re not referring to someone who has faithful Facebook friends or someone who connects on LinkedIn when they need a job. No, rather these are true friends — those who can stand the test of time.
Having recently celebrated a milestone birthday (translation: getting old) my husband suggested a party. “You know Karen, what about 10 or so friends?” I laughed – 10, really? Not possible. I invited 30 friends. Much to my husband’s chagrin and my delight, 26 responded, “yes.” The evening easily ranked as one of the best experiences of my life, watching as bonds that had been established, cultivated, and nurtured were still intact. The connections were meaningful and real. It struck me that having friends from various facets of life really tells your own unique story, they are your memory keepers. They are also the family members that you choose — those for whom to give thanks, especially during this season of thanks .
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