Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Gift of Friendship

On an adventure 3 years ago at a neighborhood candy store.
I was introduced to adventures by Ella, my neighbor, who at the time was three. Yesterday Ella  turned 13.  I wanted to have an adventure but didn't know if Ella would be game.  I decided to ask anyway.  I told her mother what I had planned but Ella didn't know we were headed for a manicure until she got in my car. She was delighted which made my first manicure even more pleasurable.  We ended up at Venetian Nail Spa where I was somewhat overwhelmed by the "wall of choices."  I followed Ella's lead and chose pink.  What a satisfyingly wonderful time I had as we hardly had a moment of silence between us. She shared college and career thoughts, as well as pressures in soccer (Ella participates in the Olympic development program and received MVP for her school team). She talked of wishing she could go to a boarding school in Switzerland! as I shared of living in California for a summer in college.  And we reminisced about adventures past. 

One of the first things Ella talked about when she got in the car was friendship. This was the perfect entry for sharing with Ella the wisdom she shared with me during our Christmas adventure when she is four. 

This is the story from that outing nine years ago.  It is as needed today as it was then, possibly even more so.

The Gift of Friendship

   My friend Ella and I began a ritual last holiday.  We had lunch together then spent the afternoon doing things we enjoy.  We chronicled our adventure by photographing ourselves at various places.  I then created a book of photos complete with captions. 

  To Ella our book became a best seller and my gift of time was a hit with her mom since Ella’s only four years old.  This year we decided to stretch our second adventure over several outings. Our first was a trip to The Frothy Monkey, a cool neighborhood restaurant/coffee shop. 

   A twenty-something customer took our photo prior to the arrival of our grill cheese and chocolate milk. (The caption for this photo will probably read, “Ella and Aunt Dawn await their snack. Where do cheese and milk come from?”)   After enjoying our snack, I took Ella’s photo by the purple house next door since purple is one of her favorite colors. 

   Nearing home, Ella asked if we could continue our adventure the following day.  I explained that I had to work and she would be in school.   She then asked if I went to school, more specifically she asked if I went to college.  I explained that I went to college to become a good listener so I could talk and listen to people when their hearts were sad, scared, mad and happy.

   Thinking this was the perfect moment to plant seeds for Ella’s future, I explained that some people go to college to become doctors.  Before I rattled off other suitable career options, Ella said,  “I want to go to college to become a friend.”  This was the perfect moment meant for me, the grown-up in the car. 

   Just imagine if we all aspired like Ella to become a friend – the energy of such intention alone would dramatically change the world.  Poverty and imbalance would be greatly diminished.  Violence would be close to non-existent since it’s much harder to inflict harm on those we consider friends.  Attorneys, cops and therapists might have to find other careers since we earn much of our living from the results of people doing unfriendly things to one another or having been the recipients of less than friendly acts.  Anti-depressants would be much less needed since depression festers in isolation and withdrawal.  Friendship would lessen the stress hormones that flood our bodies thus impacting our arteries, heart and immune system.  (Of course, doctors and pharmaceutical companies would take a hit in the wallet since the medical profession makes a living off our stress filled lives. It’s believed that 60-90 percent of all doctor visits involves stress related complaints.)  Can you imagine your doctor writing a prescription that read:  Commit one friendly gesture twice daily for the next seven days.

   We make the holidays particularly stressful with our unrealistic expectations.  January in turn promises more stress as credit card debt comes due.  In this time of gift giving, give yourself the gift of friendship. It will not appear on your Visa card bill next month.  Friendship is the gift that keeps on giving and it never goes out of style like most things we buy.  It costs nothing yet it does more good I suspect to one’s heart and health than all the medicines in the world.  Remember Ella’s simple yet profound career goal.  Be a friend.   And I would add pay attention to the children in your life. They offer jewels of wisdom if we’re only listening.

-Dawn, The Good News Muse, 23 December 2013 
first printed in December 2004 by the Tennessean newspaper

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