Thankfulness for Friends and Acquaintances — Old, New, and Even Short Term
Wrapping up Week 1 of RosieCentral's Giving Thanks and Gratitude Month
People are a big part of our lives. When you think of friendships, who Inspires you?
You need to come up with your own answer. For me, it couldn’t be simpler — my father. As our family likes to say, my father never met a person he didn’t like.
And he met many people. He would strike up a conversation with a person on the elevator and quickly find something in common. In the grocery store line, he’d ask a question about an item in the person’s cart. He enjoyed conversing with seat mates on the airplane. He enjoyed chatting with the food demonstrator at Costco.
Often the outcome was less than a full-fledged friendship but other times, the encounters turned into multi-year friendships. All were satisfying to both my father and the “stranger.”
The Rye Bread Friendship
For example, I remember when my father wanted to make rye bread and was choosing a rye flour from the grocery store shelf. Another man reached for one of the brands.
My father asked him why he chose that particular one. A conversation followed and my father learned that the man was an employee in a local bakery and liked to also make rye bread at home.
My father asked if he should use entirely rye flour. The baker responded,
“Oh no. I use about a cup of rye to two and a half cups of bread flour.”
The conversation continued and in his parting words, the baker said,
“Don’t forget to buy caraway seeds, if you don’t already have them at home.”
This was news to my father. He didn’t know to add the seeds. The baker suggested he add 2 to 3 tablespoons into the dough.
In this example, my father reached out — made a temporary friend — and learned about baking rye bread. I have always felt that both my father and the baker gained from the interaction.
The Thai Farmer Friendship
And here’s a story of a long-term friendship. My father had flown to Washington, DC on business. On his return flight to Oklahoma City, he sat next to a man — one of a group of 19 — from Thailand. The group of farmers was making its way around the US to learn about new crops, practices, etc.
My father struck up a conversation and ended up inviting the whole group to our home for a Sunday meal. The group returned to Thailand where they implemented many of the ideas — growing citrus — raising show horses — etc. Two of the men became lifelong family friends. Many holiday cards made their way between Oklahoma City and Thailand. I still have a few of them. My husband and I even had the opportunity to visit one of the men when we were in Thailand on business 15 years later.
Not Everyone Is an Extrovert But Everyone Can Have an Expanding Circle of Friends -- Friends You Are Grateful For
Think you aren’t the kind of person who can talk with strangers? Not everyone is as outgoing as my father. But everyone can make new friends. You just need to find an approach that works for you. And for every new friend you make, be sure to be grateful.
Perhaps one of your current friends can arrange to have lunch with you and one of her friends. This is an easy way to expand your friendships. Perhaps you can join an organization or group and make friends that way. You might take an online course and meet people that way.
The Online Course Friendship
Kendra and I have taught memoir writing courses for a number of years. One online group became quite close as we read and critiqued their life stories. After about six months, we all agreed to meet at an upcoming writers’ conference. It was a great way to cement our friendships.
Don’t Necessarily Want More Friends?
That’s okay too. Just remember to be thankful for the friendships you do have.
A Word About Aging and Friendships
I offer this advice based on the experiences of my mother. She lived to be 95 and always had many friends. Of course, she outlasted many of those I had known. For her 90th birthday party, she gave us a list of about 75 people to invite.
I noted that many of the guests she invited were younger, some much younger, than she was. When I asked her about this, she said, “If you are fortunate enough to live a long life, you will find that some of your friends die long before you do. So at every opportunity, make new friends including women who are younger than you are.”