It was our last lunch together. My friend Kimberly had an aggressive form of cancer and knew her time was short. I hadn’t accepted the fact yet because she was only in her early 40s and had a loving husband and three children to finish raising. But she couldn’t fight anymore.
Preparing for my friend of almost two decades to visit that fated day six years ago, you would have thought royalty was coming. I brewed a teapot of piping hot flavored tea and set the dining room table with the good china, candles and prepared a lunch feast, even though there would only be the two of us.
Usually, lunch together meant going to a restaurant, but Kim had wanted to come to my home. It was our custom to bless food wherever we ate. Truthfully, I can’t remember who said grace, but I vividly recall her tell-tale prayer at the end, “And God, please give Christina a friend.”
Now, wait just one minute, Kimberly. I don’t need a friend; I have you. This thought raced through my mind, denying the reality she had already accepted. A few weeks later, she was gone.
Those of you who have also lost a close friend empathize with how painful this loss can be. It’s a rare gift to find a faithful friend, although many folks have an ardent desire to experience intimate friendship. The kind of friendship which allows one to take off their societal mask and to pour out their problems and joys to a non-judgmental confidant and to be a listening ear in return.
The reason I’m writing this column is because I’m worried about friendship. I’m concerned it might be becoming as outdated as last year’s technology, and I’m pretty sure technology is the culprit deserving most of the blame.
To explain, recently a school bus filled with adolescents passed me when I was driving, and I noticed a lot of their young heads were in a downward position. Many were probably listening to music, texting or checking their social media accounts on their smartphones. This, instead of taking the opportunity to be social with the kid in the seat next to them.
Having a social media connection isn’t like having a best buddy who you can call at 2 a.m. We don’t require hundreds of acquaintances when crisis or heartbreak happens in our personal lives. Yet one true pal can be a tremendous support as opposed to a relationship created by clicking “confirm.”
A recent article on www.healthline.com, “Social Media is Killing your Relationships” reports, “What if every like, heart and reply we give to someone on the internet is actually taking away from our energy for offline friendships?” The article’s writer, Jennifer Chesak, appears to believe we might be, “…unknowingly draining our social energy for in-person interactions.”
“Research shows that good friendships are vital to your health,” according to the Heathline article. “More specifically, having close friendships correlates to functioning better, especially as we get older.”
Reflecting on days gone by, lately my mind drifts back to the perpetual pot of coffee that used to be a sign you were welcome in a friend’s home. I’m talking decades ago, before coffee shops cropped up. You would knock on a friend’s door unannounced, uninvited and often be greeted with, “Let me put on a pot of coffee, and let’s talk.”
After women began joining the workforce in record numbers in the 1960s, within time, they were no longer home to answer the doorbell or too busy to sit and chat. The proverbial pot of coffee fell by the wayside like Sunday night’s Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color and the ironing board.
Personally, I’m grateful for permanent press anything, but I sure do miss those marathon kitchen-table conversations where you and your friends solved the world’s problems. Of course, there are coffee shops, restaurants, assorted clubs and groups, which do lend to a sense of camaraderie. Still, it’s almost impossible to take that societal mask off in a public setting.
Some young people probably falsely believe friendship is about how many contacts like their latest post or photo or about a connection offering an online “love you” or “sending good vibes” when something tragic happens. But the real thing is having another human being put their arm around you and be present with you in heartbreaking times. As Kimberly would have said, “Now, that’s true friendship.”
Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com