Sunday, September 4, 2011

We’ve Got To Catch Up Sometime . . .

We’ve all said those words to numerous people in the course of our lives. Whether we truly intend to follow-through on the implied meeting, or simply wish to keep up appearances, this phrase can become an easy way out, an escape route, an addictive deterrent against developing something that requires enormous amounts of hard work, patience, understanding, and, most importantly, love. What is this? It’s friendship.

In today’s modern society, which is chock-full of appointments, teleconferences, fast food lunches, and late nights at work, it becomes increasingly difficult for two friends to find a date in their hectic lives that doesn’t conflict with either schedule. Constant traveling and jetting across the continent, or even the world, only increases the difficulty since the available window of time decreases significantly when one or both parties is only home for a few weeks at a time. In a world that revolves so much around one’s career and getting to the top, it is easy to lose sight of the friends who were there from the beginning.

So how do we hold onto the tender and essential roots of our past that led us to our future? Modern technology offers numerous means of “keeping in touch” via Facebook, MySpace, e-mail, texting, instant messaging, Skype etc. These methods of communication do help connect us for brief moments at a time, which is essential in our busy lives. Yet if these electronic means become our only form of contact with a person, the relationship becomes stilted and aloof. So we must find more routes towards continuing a friendship, even at distances or amid busy days.

The telephone, invented by Alexander Graham Bell in the late 19th century, presents an answer so simple that it is often overlooked. While the texting applications simply serve the same purpose as online chatting, the actual calling of a person and speaking with them, even if just for a few moments, still represents a miracle of science and an honest effort to truly connect with a person over a long distance. There is something about hearing the human voice that reminds one of the innate and unique connection the human race has to one another. While you may not be able to see the face of the person, hearing their voice lends an aura of reality to the relationship that could easily have slipped into cyberspace.

My favorite form of communication is the letter, preferably written long-hand. Snail mail may be going out of style in modern society, but nothing can really replace the beauty and love that accompanies a hand-written note or letter, expressing thoughts of “I’m thinking of you” and “I value our friendship enough to take the time to write down a message for you.” In a letter you can express emotion to the Nth degree, and make sure you get it all out without worrying about interruption or losing your train of thought. I can’t count the number of times that a letter has helped me express my delight or depression, my fears and my hopes. The written word is powerful. It can give hope to an imprisoned maiden. It can pass on sadness and sorrow to a military wife. It can bring joy to a grandparent who reads of their grandchildren’s follies and frolics. It has the power to overcome a person, shedding the light of truth and bringing a ray of hope into a world of darkness.

All this to say simply that numerous means rest at our fingertips to “catch up” with our friends. It is up to us, however, to have the strength of will and loving desire to make use of these means. Any friendship cannot survive if it is only one-sided, and regrettably too many friendships dissolve because one person cannot make the time. Just as a flower needs sunlight and water to grow, a relationship requires careful tending and loving care to flourish and blossom. This is why truly great friendships take years to mature.

My challenge to you, and to myself, is to faithfully continue friendships. A dear friend is irreplaceable, and a “busy schedule” is no excuse. We make time for football games and beer, for ice cream and wasting time on Facebook. Why is it that we cannot make time for our friends? For the ones who will stand by us through thick and thin, coming to our aid when we need help and rejoicing when we succeed? I know that nobody, especially myself, is perfect. But it is a far better thing to try and succeed somewhat rather than simply give up for fear of partial or complete failure. Hold onto your friends with both hands. They are God’s gift to us, and it is our duty, both to ourselves and our fellow man, to cherish and care for such a beautiful gift.