Recently an old friend from college days (Carol) drove six hours to spend two days with Sam and me and another old friend (Kathy) who lives here in Kitchener. I appreciated this very much.
It set me to thinking about the special kind of comfort old friends can be and often are. They have seen me over many years – as far back as my early adulthood or even, perhaps, my childhood.
There’s something special about being known over time. Old friends have had some of the same formative experiences I’ve had. If I dare to ask, they can tell me whether a direction I’m pondering fits with the Sue they’ve known for 30 or 50 years. They’ve seen my patterns of decision making and have a sense of the core essence of Sue and the way I’ve expressed that essence over time. When facing a difficult situation, I can ask, “Is the way I’m approaching this consistent with the Sue you’ve known?”
Plus, if they’re older than me, they have information which few others can offer. I remember asking my big brother Jim shortly before he died, “What type of apples did the two trees in our backyard produce before Hurricane Hazel took them out in 1954?” And he knew! “The Smokehouse were for baking,” he answered promptly, “and the Red Delicious for eating.” Almost five years after his death, I still miss the way his knowledge extended my sense of our family and the Souderton community back by an additional 20 years. He was a dear old friend….
My association with Carol, who visited me last weekend, started in the student publications offices at Goshen College, a very formative place for me. Since Carol and her spouse Katie reside in Upstate New York, Sam and I have been able to visit there repeatedly to share in the beauty of their area, celebrate weddings, and compare our lives out of similar worldviews.
For me, there’s a comfort level in being with old friends that I rarely find elsewhere. Perhaps that’s why I’ve stayed part of some groups for a long time, such as the “Group of 5” who go out for lunch together most months.
With old friends, it’s sometimes possible to pick up the phone, initiate a call, and continue a conversation where we left off four years ago! And if both parties are committed to doing so, it’s possible to deepen the relationship over time.
And it’s great to just plain enjoy each other’s company…remembering old times and exploring our common interests now. Last weekend Carol, Kathy and I spent more than an hour in a quilt shop on an Old Order Amish farm, enjoying Eileen Jantzi’s quilts and “helping” one of us choose fabrics for the quilt she commissioned.
While new friends stretch me and often signal new interests, old friends quietly witness my continuity…who I have been and who I am becoming. In this my spirit is nourished….
Question for Reflection:
In what ways – if at all – do old friends have a special place in your life? How do they nourish your spirit?
Next week: Nourishing Hospitality