Growing up, my mother shared the wisdom; “Your friends are your most important possessions.”I really loved it when, in the 80’s, the state of Pennsylvania embraced the slogan “You’ve Got a Friend in Pennsylvania.”This went along with Philadelphia being “The City of Brotherly Love”.
Though as a Philly sports fan, this is a little counter programing. The Philadelphia sports fans are thought to beAmerica’s hooligans,like the English soccer fans. The Flyers were known as the Broad Street Bullies. An Eagle’s fan who later became mayor started a snowball fight with Santa Clause,and after winning the super bowl the Eagles fans had more of a riot than a celebration, burning cars.
Then in 2008, Philadelphia won the World Series against the Florida Devil Rays, and the fans booed Bud Selig, the commissioner of baseball. One of the pundits said it was good Philadelphia won the Series because the Rays fans weren’t sophisticated enough to know the commissioner needed to be booed.
But I digress. Pennsylvania wants you to know that we are a community of friends and Ben Franklin would be proud. “You’ve got a friend in Pennsylvania”is a great slogan, even if it is grammatically incorrect and hasn’t been on our license plates for 30 years. Friends are so important to the quality of our lives and they should be nurtured.
For me, the best recent example was my birthday this past week. I invited five of my good friends and their spouses to join Jane and me for dinner at Talula’s Table in Kennett, just before COVID-19 shut everything down.These were friends from my childhood, Vietnam, the office andKennett.
It was only on the day of the dinner that I realized that no one knew each other and the only thing we had to talk about that night was politics and COVID -19;my sense for the gathering was we are all going to die! But I shouldn’t have worried. Good friends are usually curious, self-directed and successful at finding their way through this adventure of life, and fond of discussing/arguing the great ideas of life.
Your friends are the people in your life that make you want to be a better “YOU”. There is an excellent book by Tom Rath entitled “Vital Friends- The people you can’t afford to live without.”He feels that we all need a few high-quality friendships. These are deep relationships that are good for our health, spirits, productivity and longevity. It may even start with our life partner as Friedrich Nietzsche said; “It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.”
Rath breaks up friendships into work and life. His work with Gallup on the workplace has made him a strong believer of the value of friends at work. His research has shown that unless the people you work withhave at least one close friend at work, you probably have a fairly unproductive organization. Work in general is not a “friend friendly” place.Only 1 in 4 work places feel like family.
The research on friends is fascinating. Different friends have different roles in your life. They can be companions, navigators, provide you direction, collaborators, they can help motivate you and keep your eyes and mind open to new ideas. Developing close friends is probably the only thing you can do in your life, to expand your horizons, that is better than reading.
When I turned 40 I started gaining weight and the only thing I could do to reliably maintain my goal weight was routine exercise. I found a group of runners that ran every Saturday morning meeting at Buckley’s Tavern in Greenville, Delaware and I have been running with them ever since. To describe that group will take another 800 words but suffice to say long before Las Vegas said it, runners said it; “What happens on the long run stays on the long run.”There is a rule of thumb that if you can’t talk while you are running, you are running too fast. So, on a couple of ten mile runs you pretty much cover all dimensions of truth, beauty and goodness and our healthcare system.
So, who are your close companion friends? Who are your close work friends? Where can you get direction? How do you help your friends? How do they help you? And how can you be a better friend to your spouse?