I am blessed with many friends. A few are truly closer to my heart than family members. We have invested countless hours over the years talking about our dreams, our childhoods, and all the ups and downs of daily life. Our relationships continue by mutual choice and grow deeper because we continue to make the effort to know and understand each other.
I sometimes lead a fast paced life juggling the responsibilities of a wife, business owner, college professor, and mother of teenagers. (ok, MOST of the time!) Caring, understanding, and insightful friends who aren’t afraid to hold me accountable, point out weaknesses and errors, and generally “tell it like it is” are essential to my achieving balance in my life.
Hopefully, you have one or two of this type of friend in your own life…
With Christmas and New Year gatherings now behind us, I have had a few minutes to reflect on the time I recently spent with family and friends. I was warmed by the memories of shared food, laughter, and conversation at my sister’s house in Atlanta. We had a great time eating Tapas and playing American Idol on the Play Station. My niece, Faith trounced everyone, but the men should decidedly stick to their day jobs! They were a little pitchy dawg! My life is much richer for having my brother-in-law, Pete, in my life, even if he can’t sing.
A visit awhile ago to my best friend’s house in North Carolina was equally dear to my heart, even though both she and her husband were sick. They are a big part of my “family of friends” and cozying up to watch a movie with them was just what I needed.
Getting to know someone… their likes, their dislikes, their childhood stories, their dreams for the future… takes conscious effort and an investment of time. In this fast paced and disposable minded society, relationships are often neglected or even ignored. Nearly gone are the days of hand written thank-you notes… we send an e-mail, if anything at all. Christmas cards and letters… too expensive. A visit… gas prices and “going green” sideline travel. Talking over a nice hot cuppa tea… no margin in our schedules. Asking personal questions… we might be “politically incorrect” or offend someone, so we stay silent. A little gift… just “one more thing” on our never ending list of things to do.
-William Arthur Ward
Do you REALLY know your family members? Your friends? When is the last time you invited your sister-in-law out for a cup of coffee? When is the last time you asked your neighbor what books he is enjoying reading or what new music groups he is listening to? When is the last time you asked your in-laws to tell you a story from THEIR childhood? How long has it been since your friend’s mom died… did you ask if this Christmas was hard for him?
Many years ago, as a young bride, I struggled in a relationship with an older family member. I was very young and rather intimidated by the challenge of making friends with my husband’s family. No matter what I did or said, I always felt that this person was picking on me. Well, one day the light bulb went off… I decided to start asking questions about her… granted it was self-defense.. anything to have her stop picking on me! But do you know what? A wonderful thing happened. In asking about her girlhood, her work, her life, our relationship blossomed. I gained a new fondness and respect for her and enjoyed our times together immensely. We became friends and our hearts bonded after I took the step to reach out to her.
Who in your life could use a little extra attention?
Can you pry yourself away from the internet long enough to pick up the phone or hand write a note? Is a coffee date a possibility?
My challenge to all of us in 2011 is to invest.
Not in the economy, but in each other.
Strong relationships will strengthen you as you face the challenges of work and family this year. Life is precious and life is short. Don’t miss out on the richness of truly getting to know someone, just as they are.