Monday, January 24, 2011

Looking for Friends

I saw this today while perusing the BYU-Idaho bulletin board:

I had to laugh, then stopped, rebuking myself for being a little unkind. But I wasn't mean, I just found it funny that someone would run a "wanted ad" for friends.

Maybe it's because they aren't the only ones looking for friends. It seems that this has come up a lot lately, at least for me. At church, I've heard more than once the issue of someone not having friends and feeling lonely. Someone even said that the church are fake.

A year or so ago, I found myself in the same situation: newly married, not many friends in the area (since most of my former roommates had graduated and moved) and in a new ward. It took some time, courage and effort. The challenge wasn't new to me, but different since I had to make sure my husband had a male counterpart that wanted to be his friend too, or at least play League of Legends with him.

My saving grace stemmed from a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: "The only way to have a friend is to be one." My dad had told me this as a little girl. It's stuck ever since and it seems that someone has to take the initiative, the frightening first step of putting oneself out there for possible criticism or rejection.

Over the years, I have been blessed with some very good friends. Many of them are spread out around the country and some are even found around the world. I know I can rely on all of them if need be and I hope they know they could rely on me as well. I look forward to making new friends. Although I can improve in being a friend, I'm rich in friends and for that I am eternally grateful.

But for those who feel poor in this aspect, here's an email from my all-knowing and intelligent father who sent this to my sisters and me:

How do you make friends?

Some friendships happen naturally. Some occur because you are forced by circumstances to become companions, which evolves into a friendship. But sometimes you just have to make a friend. How do you make a friend? Sometimes it is harder than you would think. 

What does it take to make a friend? Well, it takes more than just being available, convenient, or experiencing a shared event. Being in the same dorm room, young woman's class or neighborhood does not, in and of itself, build a friendship. It also takes more than just liking someone and having them like you. Friendships are nurtured-planted, watered, fed, and cared for. Otherwise they die.
  • The first step in developing a friendship is that you have to rub shoulders with a lot of people. They don't have to share all of your interests or values, but it does help to share a few. But if you keep to yourself and like it that way, or choose not to get out and be with people very often, your opportunity to build a friendship will be dramatically limited. You don't have to be a party animal, but you have to do more than sit around your living room watching TV every night. Get out. Get involved. Have a hobby that enables you to have experiences with like-minded people.
  • Then get to know people. Listen to them. You don't always have to agree with them but you have to listen to them. For some of us, this is difficult. We want someone to listen to us and care about what we feel emotional about. But the best friends are those who we listen to first because they know how much we care about them. Ask them about their lives, what they feel strongly about. Do not judge them, or even try to advise them at first. Just listen to them. They will appreciate that you care about them. 
  • An important factor that influences true, long lasting friendship is what I call "chemistry". Another way of putting it is that you can't force a friendship. You can wish for it, want it, hope for it, but there frequently is a "spark" between people that makes the relationship feel right. This is not the same as "friendship at first sight". It's a feeling of "connection" that draws people together and then holds on to them.
  • A common shared experience feeds a friendship. While a girl's camp overnighter in and of itself doesn't make a relationship, it can provide a beginning of years of memories. Service projects, working together, attending the same difficult class--all contribute to strengthening a friendship. A shared experience, such as being in the same YW class, does not necessarily imply that a friendship exists. But it can lead to those shared experiences which enrich a friendship.
  • Friendships require that you are truthful and even occasionally painfully honest with someone. If you cannot tell someone how you really feel about them or how they have acted, then it really isn't much of a relationship, much less a friendship. Sometimes we are afraid to tell someone something we don't think they want to hear. This inclination must be overcome. When people are close, it is inevitable that things are carelessly said or done which offend. The quality of the relationship is the degree you can discuss an issue and then move beyond it.
  • Gratitude and appreciation are expressed frequently in true friendships. These efforts strengthen friendships and contribute to enriching the relationship. They make people glad they are with you.
  • It's tough to have strong friendships if you don't spend much time together. Effort must be made to find, invest, and expend the time to be with others. This doesn't imply consuming every waking moment of someone's time, but orchestrating events to be with someone. This is especially true if work, family and other obligations absorb a great deal of your time away. But if this turns into weeks or even months, a friendship can die. You can like a person still but feel the relationship has grown apart. Regularly schedule activities, such as a shared lunch, occasional movie, or physical workout can rejuvenate a friendship. 
  • A true friend forgives the other for mistakes and offenses that inevitably happen over time. If the relationship is rich, mistakes and offenses can be weathered in spite of the attending hurt and pain. If the relationship is not well developed, friendships are inclined to end when mistakes and offenses occur.
Any relationship that evolves into a friendship generally involves work. One cannot take for granted that time in and of itself makes a friendship. Work includes finding time to nurture the friendship, experiencing shared activities, forgiving your friend for mistakes and offenses, expressing appreciation for their care and concern for you, listening, even when you don't want to, and being honest with them when they need to hear the truth.
For what its worth, these principles are true for missionary companionships, moving into a new area, and, yes, even marriages. Learn to make true friendships now. Much joy and happiness comes because we have true friends.

So if you find yourself wanting to use craigslist or the BYU-Idaho bulletin board to find some friends, just remember my ol' dad's advice. It's never steered me wrong.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Afterglow of Christmas

I just finished cleaning the floor in both the bathroom and kitchen. Hands-and-knees style. Santa dropped the ball on a new mop this year (ours broke a few months ago). Oops - forgot. I'm Santa. Guess that tells you where my priorities lie. However, it did feel good to do some physical work, especially after a long and blissful holiday break that involved a lot of chocolate, turkey and sitting on the couch.

Speaking of the holidays - wow. Talk about a different Christmas/New Years. In a previous post I mention ways I would make this holiday extra special since we would be far from family. I was semi-successful. I tried. I really did. But I found my efforts were thwarted due to lack of sleep, fussy baby, etc. etc. And then, when I had the chance to be serviceable, I was rejected or it didn't work out. I swallowed my frustration and waited for the next chance. I think the highlight for me was the Wednesday before Christmas. I desperately wanted to go caroling at a nursing home, a tradition that began with my family when I was young. Naturally, I waited until the day before to call around to the three nursing homes in town and one was available or didn't have a scheduled program. Then I texted everyone who I thought was in town from the ward and two families were able to join ours. One has three kids and the other has two. We were quite the bunch of carolers. I had selected some songs - a mix of spiritual and secular - and printed them out.

The nursing home had three separate buildings. We began at one, per the request of the coordinator to whom I spoke when I set things up. Luckily, a few residents were still around in the living/entertainment area and we started to sing. The look in their eyes was unforgettable. They sang along to "Away in a Manger," "Jolly Old St. Nicholas" and "Silent Night." My voice caught a few times as I watched their faces.

The folks in the second building were more interested in the children, but in the third building, no one was out, so we went from room to room. One of the last people we sang to was a woman who had just moved from Powell, Wyo. I may be wrong, but I doubted that she had family in the area. Or maybe she did. Whatever the case was, I felt that we made her night special. Ruby Reno was her name.

We left that night in the falling snow with warm hearts. We said our "Merry Christmases" and went home.

The next few days we spent as a family and read of the Savior and of His birth. It was a beautiful, simple Christmas. My mind drifted across the country to South Dakota and my wonderful family there, but my heart was also held steady with my husband and little one. I hope your Christmas was just as memorable.