THE BLESSING OF FRIENDS (Blessings Jar Week 11)

I love belonging to the Five Minute Friday blogging community. Writing to such a deadline sparks creativity in unthought of directions and keeps things tight. However, because of the no editing rule, sometimes I end up rather dissatisfied with my efforts and this week was no exception because I felt I had dwelt too much on the negative and therefore written an unbalanced piece.

Reading it back a day later, I’m not so sure of that judgement but, in my continuing attempts to be a more glass-half-full person (which is one of the key reasons for this Blessing Jar series), it seems apt to consider the blessings I’ve had from friendships.

I’ve started to think about what exactly the bonds are that hold a friendship together, what makes one friendship last and another drift, why some friendships can be taken up again in a matter of minutes despite miles and years in between and some never progress beyond politeness.

I think the first things that lead to friendship are time and opportunity. We start to become friends with those we do things with – school, work, church. But it needs more than that for a friendship to develop. We need commonalities, similar experiences to discuss, those moments when we suddenly realise, ‘Oh, you too?’.

From 4 years old this glamorous lot were playing together in each others’ gardens and walking to school together with us mums. Now they are all at university but we mums are still friends.

I remember that moment with my friend, Lizzie. For a while we’d just nodded at each other as we walked the same route to drop off and pick up our kids from school before we actually spoke to each other. But it was when we discovered that we had both lived abroad for a while that I felt we ‘clicked’. We went on to discover and develop a host of other shared characteristics – husbands whose work took them abroad; children in the same years at the same schools; a love of travel, good food and nice wine (admittedly that’s actually moved on to a shared love of gin now!); the loss of our mothers; and the caring for increasingly dependent fathers. All these have woven a web of friendship bonds between us.

And cocktails, we also like to swap cocktail recipes!

But there’s another element required for a friendship to last and that’s effort. Going back to work, volunteering at Boys’ Brigade, and an increasing amount of time spent looking after my father – all worthwhile and properly prioritised activities – reduced the time and energy I had to spend with my friends. And a friendship without deep roots won’t survive such neglect. A good friend will understand when other concerns must take precedence but all friendships are like plants and need attention. So I’m glad to be back in the routine of coffee with the other mums on my estate. It nurtures my soul and helps keep me sane.

Of course, the way to tell a true friend is by the way they act, especially when times are tough. There was Jeni, who understood when I had depression that I couldn’t cope with large social events but organised something small and manageable so I didn’t miss out on a special occasion. Simone helped set up the catering on the day of my mum’s funeral. Liz listened endlessly on the phone when I was miserably sick with hyperemesis through both my pregnancies.

Liz has kept my family supplied with her wondrous cakes for a very long time.

And for a proper friendship, as Kath writes on the Glimpsing Glory blog for the same Five Minute Friday prompt, there has to be equality – otherwise it’s not friendship but a different relationship altogether. Friends have no superiority or one sidedness but take it in turns to hold each other up. I’ve been glad to hold my friends up with a listening ear or the benefit of my professional knowledge because I know my own turn has either just passed or is about to come round. As the song says:

‘Lean on me

When you’re not strong

I’ll be your friend

I’ll help you carry on

For it won’t be long

‘fore I’m gonna need

Somebody to lean on.’

Finally, I think what pulls and holds friends closest together, no matter the distance or time between meeting, is shared values. This is what enables us to pick up where we left off straightaway with some. My best female friend lives nearly 150 miles away but put us on the phone together or in the same room and none the miles or months matter. Not bad for a couple of women who, having had the other bigged up by our families before we met, originally decided not to even like each other! Our faith and mutual history has forged elastic bands of friendship between us that stretch but don’t break.

Reunited with old school friends, Elaine and Kiren, last year

In the end, I guess it’s a combination of these factors that creates and establishes friendships. Some will last a season and others a lifetime. Looking back, I can see I have a lot of friendships to thank God for sending my way and I have indeed been blessed.



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