October 26, 2007

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Friendship, just the perfect blendship

Cynthia DewesRecently, I found an article that complained about the concept of friendship found on social Web sites, such as MySpace. It seems that in the sites’ terms, friends are just people who sign up for their service.

Some of these sites even foster competition for having the most “friends.” They have pages listing the names of a subscriber’s friends so that the person who has only one or two names listed feels she must look for more contacts, more so-called friends. The truth is the sites are not providing a social service, but simply are after more revenue.

What is really sad is that some of these subscribers actually think of the acquaintances they see on the screen as their friends. The idea is quantity, not quality, and what constitutes friendship doesn’t seem to be part of their thinking. It seems to me that teenagers have enough self-esteem problems without adding insult-by-Web-site to the mix.

Recently, a friend of ours presented a report to her reading club on visiting Alaska with us and some other couples. As a preamble to her talk, she described our friendship in terms of the trips we have taken together. She said the relationship we share enriches our experience no matter what we’re doing as a group.

She really gave a good description of what friendship is. First, there’s a mutual attraction when we meet people with whom we have much in common and can compare experiences with. We discover people, places or events with which we’re both familiar, and we enjoy discussing them. We seem to hold many of the same opinions, and when we don’t it’s fun to debate our differences. We’re compatible.

Our friend described how and when our couples’ group came to be friends with active participation in our parish being the central connection. She described the things we enjoy doing together, including the trip to Alaska and others.

Since all these women love to cook and entertain with place cards and table favors and such, and since all the men love to eat, we also have dinner parties together. We have birthday dinners, an annual Christmas progressive dinner or dinner for any good excuse. Once, we even had a Titanic dinner, complete with fancy food and dress.

Friendship also involves trust. Once we establish a compatible relationship, we know we can trust each other for all kinds of support, especially the spiritual and emotional kinds. There’s responsibility involved because in order to have a friend, we must be a friend.

When one of our friends in the group was seriously ill, the others pitched in with prayers, cheer cards and phone calls. But they also cleaned her house, brought food to her and her husband and, after she had recovered, took them out to dinner to celebrate.

Some of us are lucky enough to have learned what friendship is from an early age. We have friends from kindergarten with whom we still keep in touch, not to mention from high school and the early years of marriage. Some friends have become Christmas letter friends because we touch base and exchange life information only once a year, with no physical contact since about 1973.

Whatever the situation, we need friendships to remind us of the importance of human connections of trust, affection and support, none of which is available on a Web site. They’re only available when they are signs of the kind of relationship we enjoy with God.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.) †

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