In the Internet era of Facebook and Twitter, some of us may be deluded into thinking that we have hundreds or even thousands of friends based simply on highly superficial electronic relationships. But real friendship involves more than liking someone’s Facebook post. Real friendships provide support during life’s difficult moments and shared joy when celebration is in order.
Preserving friendships in our highly mobile world has become increasingly difficult as we all have busy lives and many of us relocate periodically requiring extra effort to sustain friendships with those who may live hundreds or even thousands of miles away.
I recently had the good fortune to gather with former college housemates who joined together for a long weekend in Tucson from as far away as New York and Alaska and many points in between. As we are all in our 50s, some of our adult children even chose to join us.
Back in 1977, a group of University of Michigan college students, some of whom I knew from high school, and others who met each other freshman year, found a large 9 bedroom house to rent located on 300 E. Jefferson St, in Ann Arbor. Little did we know, that an ever widening group of friends would cycle through that house for the next 4 years, and build friendships that for some of us have lasted over 40 years. One of those friends, was my dear friend Rick Radner, who inspired me to write Treasure Each Day, after his sudden unexpected death from a heart attack just over a year ago.
After Rick died, I contacted many of my 300 E. Jefferson friends to let them know of this tragic loss. We had periodically joined together for reunions, but had not done so since 2010, and with Rick’s passing, it became clear that it was time to gather again. I called Jane Stein Kerr to discuss planning a reunion, and she contacted Ron Borkan, who agreed to handle the logistics of setting up a time and place and contacting everyone. My gratitude runs deep for the effort that Jane and Ron made to bring us together once again.
Ron has lived on and off in Arizona for many years, so he agreed to plan some lovely excursions. On our first full day together, we traveled to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum outside of Tucson providing an opportunity to view some beautiful desert scenery and wildlife. Towards the end of our visit there, we viewed a raptor flight demonstration and as this Harris’s Hawk swooped and soared above us, I had the definite sense that Rick had joined our gathering, reminding me that true friendships never really die.
Of course, not everyone could make it, and that led to a discussion during at our last dinner together, about what caused us all to remain in touch and make the effort to gather in Tucson, many of us from thousands of miles away. What we realized is that true friendship is intentional and sustaining such friendships takes real effort. That includes periodically making room in our busy lives to travel and join together not only to reminisce about our college days, but to update each other on the many developments that have made up our varied lives over these many years, including new marriages, children graduating college and going on to work, getting pregnant and coping with illnesses and injuries. Our shared commitment to each other inspired us to make plans to gather again in a couple of years.
I have worked hard to preserve a number of groups of friends both near and far. None of them can be taken for granted. Nor can I assume that without sustained effort to preserve these friendships, will they always remain there when I need them as life presents its inevitable challenges.
Just before I headed to the airport to return home from Tucson, I spent the morning and then had lunch with 2 of my closest friends, Jim and Susan Cantor, who live in Alaska, so we don’t get to see each other very often. Jim and I met and became friends in high school. We became housemates in 300 E. Jefferson during college, and then spent 2 months exploring Europe and Morocco together in 1979. Jim met Susan during college and after I returned from Europe in 1980, the 3 of us shared a rented farmhouse outside of Ann Arbor. Although we do not have the chance to see each other very often, we keep in touch and support each other when we need the support of old and dear friends. As Jim & Susan’s warm smiles indicate, their marriage and our friendship remains strong.
It is probably no coincidence that although there were 2 friends who brought relatively new wives from a second marriage, 5 other couples were still in their first marriage. Those marriages have all lasted over 25 years, with my marriage to my wife Sheryl being the longest, going strong for over 33 years. It is no coincidence because these friends who make such regular and significant efforts to preserve our friendships are the kind of people who understand that a successful marriage is a unique kind of friendship that requires effort to preserve as well.
The fact that we have committed to support each other and reunite periodically over many decades leaves me confident that we will continue to do so as long as we live. In our often difficult world, friendships such as these are well worth the effort to preserve.
For more information on how Jeff Spitzer-Resnick can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems contact him through his web site: Systems Change Consulting.