“A friend loves at all times.”– Proverbs 17:17
The world in which we live is rapidly shifting, particularly post-pandemic. It seems everything is digital, including the way we interact in our personal relationships. Is it possible to maintain some semblance of Christian connection in a world rife with social isolation?
I think so. The ways in which I try to be a friend, which I share in this article, may seem oversimplified or trite. Believe me, I have reflected many times throughout the years about my friendships – why certain people stop talking to me, how I can work harder at letting my friends know I care, cultivating new friendships.
What helps me is thinking of friends in terms of a garden. Some are perennials that were planted in our hearts many years ago and continue to bloom year after year. These are our solid, loyal friendships that withstand all sorts of miscommunications, distance, and long lapses of time in between get-togethers.
Some friendships are like annual flowers. They pop into our lives quickly and blossom vibrantly but don’t necessarily stick around long-term. These may be our “seasonal” friends, ones intended for a specific period of our lives. It can hurt terribly when these friendships fade or wither, but sometimes this happens through no one’s fault. People simply change in different directions.
No matter the type or length of a friendship, it’s important to nurture habits that feed each relationship. These include regular communication, prayer, and support during hard times.
Stay in touch regularly.
When you have small children, it’s tough to make (and keep) times to catch up on the phone, let alone get together in person. But, as with any relationship, if you don’t invest your time into your friendships, they will fall away. Think of your relationship with – your parents, your siblings, your spouse, your kids, and most important, God. Which of these are close and which are emotionally distant? Likely the people to whom you feel close are the ones you make a point to contact regularly.
How do you do this with young children? I have a brood of five, and my house is filled with incessant noise. I can’t do phone calls or engage in lengthy conversations. But I do send brief “hey, how ya doin” emails or text messages to check in with my friends. A good beginner’s guideline is to contact one friend once per week. You can opt for a specific day (“every Friday”) or keep your heart attuned to the Holy Spirit’s promptings and timing.
Pray for one another, despite distance and time.
The daily grind of family life isn’t the only issue that can keep friends apart. In our global society, many of us who forged a strong bond during our high school or college days have found ourselves scattered across the country or even internationally. This is true for my husband. Ben and I met on a Catholic singles website, and he moved fifteen hundred miles away from his family and friends to land a job in the Midwest after we were married.
It’s easy to pray for your friends. Name them when you offer up a daily Rosary. Offer a spontaneous word to God during your daily workout or commute to the office. Sometimes you may feel prompted to pray a novena for your friends. Prayer can also lead you to contact friends and inquire, “Hey, I was praying for you yesterday, and I got the feeling I should call you. Is everything okay?” This is how we allow the Holy Spirit to lead our relationships.
Support each other during difficult times.
If “a friend loves at all times,” (see Proverbs quote), then this especially means we do not neglect our relationships when life gets really hard. Think of the many losses that happen as we get older – infertility, miscarriage, disability, aging parents, addiction, mental illness, etc. – and understand that your friends need your love when they are lost, uncertain, and afraid.
How do we do this? Here are two ideas:
1. Send thoughtful notes, cards, or gifts in the mail.
If you don’t have time to get together, carve out five minutes to write a handwritten note on a card with an inspirational quote. Include a holy card. If your friend is suffering devastating loss and grief, consider a small care package with gifts s/he would appreciate. Believe me, these messages seem small, but they can buoy a person’s drooping spirit immensely.
2. Offer acts of service, such as meals, babysitting, or housecleaning.
If you live close to a friend who has just had a baby, experienced emergency surgery, or lost a parent, you can offer acts of service as a means to support them through their suffering. When Sarah was born, friends came to our house on a daily basis offering free babysitting, home-cooked meals, housecleaning services, and playdates with our oldest, Felicity. It can feel awkward on both ends – as the recipient and giver – but these are powerful ways to convey your love and support to a friend in need.
There isn’t a panacea when it comes to fine tuning the delicate dance of any relationship. But the point is that, when we make time for those who matter most to us, we will see the fruits of our acts of kindness. The Holy Spirit, when at the center of our friendships, will guide us to recognize each opportunity to love and serve Him by loving one another.