Our lesson in Relief Society today was on friends. I was surprised to see this lesson in the manual and couldn’t help but wonder why it was there. (Thanks to the Prophet and the committee who plan the lesson books!) Because our focus is on Joseph Smith this year, the lesson revolved around him and the friendships he had. Joseph’s friends were amazing. They loved him and stood by him when the “fair weather” friends did not.
That got me thinking. What is a friend? Am I a good friend? Do I really listen? Am I there for my friends? Am I willing to open up to others or am I comfortable living in my own little bubble? Am I too busy with “life” for my friends? How can I be a better friend?
A few years back I lost the friendships of two life-long friends within two years. I made the choice to end one friendship and the other was that friend’s choice. I was devastated. We all lost out. Life went on though. I made new friends through my relationship with Steve, we were moved into a new ward, and I became reacquainted with lost friends on Facebook.
Until recently life as a newlywed, student, teacher, and mom left me little time for friends. Now that I have been married for almost 2 years and am no longer taking classes I have more time. Why does that extra time seem to go to my husband and boys the most? I don’t regret that it does, but I worry that I my friends and I are missing out. Women need friends. I miss my friends. I miss meeting for lunches and laughing over silly things our kids do. I miss catching up on high school gossip or crying together over our trials.
The R.S. manual also says, “True friends ease one another’s sorrows and remain faithful even in times of adversity.” I look at my parents and the friends they’ve had throughout their lives. Some friends were there for my parents when life was good, but when things turned bad, they disappeared. I’ve never forgotten that, not to begrudge those people, but as a reminder to not act that way myself.
My grandmother is another example. She now finds herself at 85 alone and sick. Grandpa died over 10 years ago. Her only son, who has had many struggles because of his poor choices, stopped talking to her soon after Grandpa died. My grandma is not active in the church and so relies on her daughter (my mom) and our family to help her. She doesn’t have any close friends. I can’t help but wonder how much richer her life would be with friends.
The gospel is one key in making friends. As sisters in the gospel we are blessed with Visiting Teachers. I can’t count how many of my Visiting Teachers have become my friends. We are also given opportunities to gather as friends in book clubs, cooking clubs, gardening clubs, and activities. If you don’t have friends at church, I’m sorry, it’s your fault. If you don’t attend a church, there are still activities you can participate in and make friends. One of my non-LDS friends meets with a woman’s group about once a month for the weekend. They talk, eat, exercise, and discuss life. Every time she returns from one of these weekends, I look forward to hearing about it.
I remember years ago complaining to one of my Visiting Teachers in a new ward I was in how I didn’t know anyone and no one was reaching out to me. She looked at me, with all of the wisdom a twenty-something could, and asked me if I had gone to any of the Relief Society activities in the ward. I swallowed my pride and told her no. She told me that I needed to extend myself first. She was right. I extended myself and made wonderful friends in that ward.
Another point the manual states is, “Friendship unites the human family, dispelling hatred and misunderstanding.” One way to bring peace into the world is to have friendships, and to love one another. If we look at those around us as our brothers and sisters in Christ, it’s easier to have patience and love for them. Having friends of various backgrounds makes the world a smaller place. I might not agree with the viewpoints of my Democrat or non-LDS friends, but I still love them. Imagine how peaceful the world would be if we could have friendship for one another, no matter what our race, religion, or background.
Before I step off of my friendship soapbox, I want to leave you with a quote one of my dear friends gave me years ago. “A friend is someone who sticks with you through thick and thin.” I haven’t always been that friend. For that I am sorrowful. I am grateful for my friends though. They have loved me, helped me, and kept me afloat during the thick times and the thin times. They are examples for me of what kind of friend I can be.