This past week I met up with two best friends from high school. One I hadn’t seen in a year or so, and the other, for a few years. However, as buddies, I don’t think that the three of us had sat together for almost 30 years. It’s strange what time can do. Sometimes it creeps and almost stops moving, while other times it just flies by too fast. While we were sitting and laughing together, it almost seemed as if we were right back in high school. We didn’t want the evening to end.
Friendships are created from the earliest ages of childhood. The first relationships we create are with our parents and siblings. At first, they are the only friends we have. They fill our entire existence. Slowly, as we leave the home environment and go to nursery and so on, throughout our growing and learning years we develop lots and lots of friendships. There are best friends and neighborhood friends; there are classmate friends and camp friends. There are cousin and relative friends, and there are friends of friends – and the list of possible friendships isn’t even close to being finished. The point is that we learn throughout our lives to connect and reach out and communicate. So we can also be friends with the grocery man down the block and the bus driver on our daily route to school or work.
However, being friendly and or having lots of friends doesn’t necessarily mean that these friends are true ones. People might like us and want to befriend us for various reasons. One might like us because we are wealthy or prominent. We might be liked because we are pretty or have a nice car. However, a truly good friend isn’t an easy thing to come by. We must work at it.
It is written in the holy Torah that we must “buy a friend.” When people buy something, they check it out very well to make sure they are getting the best quality of whatever it is they are purchasing. They want to get the most value out of their money. This teaching of Chazal just goes to show how important it is to have a truly good friend. We must make it happen. We must create a friendship that is based on trust, honesty, communication, and above all on love for one another.
Sometimes we go through a hard experience with someone and that bonds us together. That friendship was created out of tears and hardship, so the bond is strong and truly for life. Yet other times you can have an awful experience with someone and never want to see them again. Any relationship needs to be worked on. Some are worth making the effort while others are not.
Family connections are by far the most important friendships that one should work on. Nothing should be taken for granted, and it’s not obvious that since we are family we are also friends. Sometimes the worst fights and anger come from those “friendships.” However, when we work on our family friendships, they are the strongest and the most wonderful relationships in the world.
Then there are the friendships that were created throughout our school years as kids. Those are the next best relationships to family. These friends grew up with us during the years when we were young and innocent and the hardest things in life were having to do homework or not being allowed to sleep over at a friend’s house. When we are kids, our lives have more simplicity. This simplicity leaves lots of room for love and connection to our friends. When we are young we believe that we will be with our friends forever, as if they are our family. Those friendships can also last for our whole lives.
There are friends we make at work which are very convenient and important. Our days, which are filled with work, will have more meaning if we fill them with friends than if we are just interested in making a living. We are sociable creatures, and we need that interaction with our surroundings in order to live better and healthier lives. We need to talk and share, feel and love. We need recognition that we count and are important to others. Sometimes a person has no family for various reasons and his friends from work are the world to him.
I stress the point of friendships because to many it might seem like something for children, and that as you grow older you need to mature and concentrate your efforts on important things and not on trivial matters like friends or relationships. That is a common mistake. It happens because we take things for granted and forget to look around at how we got to where we did. Our friends were there for us when we cried and when we laughed, in good times and in bad. If we grew up and moved away or got married and had a family, we are not meant to forget our friends from the past. We must have gratitude for all those years together.
If we don’t have a connection and a feeling of closeness to our friends, we can be assured that we will behave similarly in our relationships at home. If we don’t appreciate what people have done for us in years gone by, especially a good or an old friend, how will we appreciate what we have or see in our own families? Will we appreciate our spouses after 10 years? Will we show gratitude to our children when they are grown up for making us such happy parents?
Sometimes we drift apart from friends geographically, after marriage or because of some new job. But we must never forget that our true friends are always there with us, rooting for our success and loving us when we feel alone. The greatest challenge is to make our family members our best friends. If we are able to find true friendships within our families, it’s an example for the next generation as well.
May we love and bond with our family and loved ones, and may we cherish and appreciate old friendships and relationships, for without them, we would not be the same people we are today.