“Anything done for another is done for oneself.” Pope John Paul II
I’ve been reminded lately of the need for community — of people willing to get their hands dirty with you, friends that will go the distance and show up just when you need them, who listen and know how to respond, who give you the pep talk you need or a shoulder to cry on.
However, I’ve also realized these friendships do not come without hard work.
When my husband and I first arrived in Los Angeles from the East Coast, we did not know a single soul. A college mate of my father in-law’s hosted us for our first three nights in the city – he drove us around and gave us the inside scoop on the neighborhoods to pass over and places to look into. Two days later, he helped us move our furniture into an apartment we had found. He introduced us to our first church, one that still remains close to our hearts twelve years later. He even went as far as to loan us our down-payment for our apartment since the landlord wouldn’t accept a check from our east coast bank. It was quite an ordeal.
This friend — a person we barely knew — was our first interaction with LA and very much our angel who oversaw us as we planted our roots. Even now I’m moved as I recount these stories, since many don’t have this type of person to look out for them when they arrive here. I wonder how different our life would look if we didn’t have him.
I firmly believe that his acts of friendship and kindness helped us to recognize those around us who are in need, who stand on the outskirts of gatherings, who need an email of encouragement or a simple prayer. Because of that person’s kindness and generosity, we want to live our lives in a similar way. But it’s one thing to be an angel in need one time — it’s another to invest long-term in deep friendship, to be present when times get difficult. As years go on and the pressures of life change and increase, it can be harder to maintain these friendships.
As a result, they’re so much more important.
Your twenties are full of whirlwind changes. It is a season where going with the flow comes more naturally, letting the wind take you where it wants to go, dropping everything to hang out with a friend. There’s no child who needs babysitting, or a spouse to coordinate schedules with.
And then I hit my thirties. Suddenly I and my friends all have babies and small children, there’s school and extracurricular activities to coordinate, date nights to schedule, obligations to attend. I realized that I was in a new season, with so much to do and so little time to do it. It’s so easy to get myopic, to just focus on getting through the day, focusing on my to-do lists — but isn’t this the season when we need friendships more than ever?
Friendships were going to have to change, look different in this new season. A new set of guidelines had to be implemented. I recently read a great article on friendships by Paul Sanders; in it, he stresses the importance of making friendships a priority, and setting aside time once a week to contact those who are important to your circle. Reading it, I was reminded that I can’t take friendships for granted, or wait to be contacted by people. I need to take initiative with my treasured relationships, and give them more tender care.
As a busy home-schooling mom, it’s hard to find time to arrange get-togethers during the week, but I have started sending more “Hey, thinking of you!” emails, or quick texts — taking time during the girl’s swim lessons to make a phone call and use my alone time more wisely to connect with others. It’s nowhere near where I want my interactions to be but this busy mom has to start somewhere.
Maybe you’ve heard the phrase “no man is an island.” In a busy city like LA, it’s hard sometimes not to feel that way (and, to be honest, as an introvert, I love my alone time). But the reality is that we aren’t meant to live life alone; there are things we can’t do by ourselves, when we need someone else to step in and help us.
I was recently very sick for 5 weeks — a painful season when I was unable to stand for more than two hours at a time, cook, clean, or care for my little beauties. When my health first started to go downhill, I didn’t share it with anyone, hoping and praying it would go away and that I wouldn’t have to share my weakness with those around me. Yet after two weeks of doctor’s visits and no changes, I had to be vulnerable with those closest around me. I needed them.
A church we’ve been involved with over the years says as one of their core values that “We get together because we can’t make it alone.” If you’re like me, being vulnerable and sharing from a place of weakness and need is very difficult. But what was so beautiful about that moment was all the people who valued our friendship and who offered to help — to cook a meal, to watch the girls, to come over and spend time with us.
The hard work of caring for my friendships had come full circle; they were now caring for me. It wasn’t something I was expecting, but it was a natural result of working so hard to invest in these relationships over the years. It also reminded me of how lonely my husband and I had been in our first year, when we felt so isolated and invisible. Life is such a contrast now, and how very grateful we are! Without these friendships, I’m not sure we would have survived. Everyone needs each other.
I encourage you to step outside your comfort zone and reach a hand out to those around you with a renewed sense of gratitude for who they might become in your life. As a friend of ours says, “the best way to find a friend is to be a friend.” How will you invest in your friendships this year?
If this message blessed you, be a blessing by sharing with others.