The way I see it, everyday is Friendship Day, but in 1935, the U.S. Congress saw fit to declare it a national holiday on the first Sunday in August. In 1997, the United Nations named Winnie – the Pooh as the world’s Ambassador of Friendship. It was offered as a way of connecting people hand to hand and heart to heart. Pretty good idea, don’tcha’ think? It has since spread as a worldwide concept…. contagious friendship. What would the planet be like if we recognized a kindred spirit in everyone we met, rather than a stranger to be feared? How many lonely hearts would be healed? My observation as a social worker who has served people with mental health challenges for many years, is that the folks who have even a small circle of supports, are more likely to remain in recovery. Sadly, those who feel the most isolated (whether by choice or chance) are more likely to remain entrenched in the dis-ease process. When clients have despaired that they are alone, I ask them if they think that the people they know now are the only ones they will ever know, some actually say yes! I remind them that everyone they now know and love was once a stranger and that there are opportunities to connect with potential new friends every day, through current friends, at work, via volunteering, meetups, hobbies, even in supermarket checkout lines.
More than 10 years ago, I was standing in line in conversation with the woman who was ringing up my groceries. She happened to know the woman in front of me as well and introduced us since both of us are writers. In short order, I found myself delighted with getting to know someone who also became a writing mentor and someone I came to call “another Jewish mother”, since I was born to one:) Donna Dvorak DelGovernatore is a talented wordsmith whose genres range from poetry to historical fiction, interviews to magazine and newspaper articles. She reminded me that “writers write” and that I should write what I know. I had the blessing of being interviewed for her book Sensational Singles and enjoyed proofreading her novel Chelten Manor. Although we haven’t seen each other in a few years, clearly it’s time to get back in touch. That’s the beauty of friendship; regardless of time passed between visits, if the bond is there, it often feels like a moment has gone by.
When I count the friends who grace my life, I am in awe. I come by the gift of attracting amazing people biologically I think, since my father Moish knew people everywhere we went. Maybe a product of growing up in South Philly, maybe just being a people person, I was blown away at how many people he knew. His funeral a few years ago was a tribute to that talent as people from all different aspects of his life spoke about what a ‘mensch’ he was.
I ‘collect people’ too since I find them endlessly fascinating. To quote one of my favorite cinematic characters Maude (title character in the movie Harold and Maude) when Harold comments, “Maude, you’re so good with people.” (when he is not) she responds “They’re my species.” Each morning I set intention to ‘”have extraordinary experiences and connect with amazing people.” and every day I do. Some I have known since childhood. Some met as recently as yesterday. Some of them are live and in person, some via social networking and we may never meet face to face. Many come from other friends who see similarities between us. Some have entered my heart after we met at workshops, drumming circles, yoga classes, parties, on the job. I met my friend Jody Kessler after I found her CD called Leap of Faith in a store and contacted her to thank her for creating it. Even though she is in Ithaca, NY and I am in the Philly area, and see each other every year or so, we remain in periodic contact. A few weeks ago, when I was thinking of her, her phone ‘called me’ inadvertantly. We laughed about that. Don’t you love when that happens?
Opportunities await around every corner. Be open to recognizing a friend in the face of a stranger. I consider my friends to be ‘family of choice’. I am a rich woman whose friends are among her treasures. <3
Fun ways to celebrate Friendship Day:
Call someone you haven’t contacted in awhile and catch up.
Tell your friends what they mean to you.
Make a list of friends throughout the years and marvel at the impact they have had on your life.
Make a friendship book. Many years ago, a friend created one and on each page, he drew a picture of each friend with a word/quality that represented who they were to him. I was his sense of wonderment and he drew me sitting against a tree, gazing up at the sky. I hold that image dear and remind myself to continue to embody it.
Create friendship cards with inspiring sayings on them, ideally something you come up with about what friendship is to you.
Ask yourself: What are the qualities that make for a good friend? And then ask if you embody them.
Some of my favorite friendship movies:
Fried Green Tomatoes
Now and Then
When Harry Met Sally
Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood
Harold and Maude
The Wizard of Oz
But friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life, and thanks to a benevolent arrangement the greater part of life is sunshine.
But friendship is the breathing rose, with sweets in every fold.
Oliver Wendell Holmes
Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.
If instead of a gem, or even a flower, we should cast the gift of a loving thought into the heart of a friend, that would be giving as the angels give.
Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.
Bette Midler Friends www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8Iwmcs1hps
Elton John Friends http://youtu.be/Zuzi-yH9VLo