today’s post is written by contributor Kathleen Cail
Recently I have been “parish shopping.” After living in one community for 17 years, we moved and are looking for a new parish to join. You’d think this would be easy. Aren’t all Catholic churches alike? Well, I’m here to tell you, they are not.
A few weekends ago, a priest at one of these parishes quoted Robert Louis Stevenson in his homily. Little did he know how much meaning that quote had for me.
So long as we love we serve; so long as we are loved by others, I would almost say that we are indispensable; and no man is useless while he has a friend.
In the midst of searching for the “right” parish, this quote reminded me that there are different parishes for people and their various spiritual needs AND that there are different friendships out there for all of us too. This is the more important message, actually.
Over the course of the last year or so, I have had the privilege of listening to parents talk about their hopes and worries for their sons’ and daughters’ social lives. I have been able to share my hopes and fears too. We have all said very similar things–we want our children to have friends but we wonder about their ability to engage in meaningful friendships. The funny thing is that I think if we step back and really look at our definition of ‘meaningful friendship’, it probably reflects that very special and unique “high-value” relationship we have with only one or two people in our lives, but doesn’t include all the looser-friendships we have collected over the course of our lives. Those friendships are no less important. They are just different and fill different roles and needs for us.
I have a couple of friends from high school and college who I rarely see, talk to occasionally, and keep up with through annual Christmas letters and Facebook. I have friends I’ve gotten to know through the years from various experiences we’ve shared at one time, and we run into each other over and over again and enjoy seeing each other and catching up. I have friends with whom I like to catch up, share a few laughs with over drinks or dinner, friends I play tennis with, and other friends—my “B.F.F.s” who I talk with about everything-the good, the bad and the ugly of life. I want to be with some people because they make me laugh, or they share an interest of mine, or I just care about them. That is enough for the friendship to exist. All of these people are important to me because they make my community. They each contribute in some way to make that community and my life vibrant and full, and they help me to feel appreciated, acknowledged, and valued. I do the same for them by being their friend.
All of our children can be appreciated for something that they bring to a relationship—humor, interest, knowledge, kindness, participating in an event or activity, etc. There will be people who they meet who assign a “high-value” to them and most importantly, they will meet one or two people to whom they assign a “high-value.” They will meet people they will call friends and who will call them friends too.
How do we get there though? There are hurdles. First we have to see in our own children those wonderful qualities that other people will enjoy and appreciate. I have to see that people will enjoy my daughter’s humor, and you have to see that people will enjoy your son’s interest & knowledge of basketball, your daughter’s interest in acting, or your son’s interest in movies. We have to appreciate those qualities, nurture them, sell them and BELIEVE that others can see and appreciate them too.
Then comes the big hurdle– taking the chance—taking the risk. Our sons and daughters are no different than anyone else in that they have to put themselves out there. Yes, the difference is that we may have to help facilitate this and we may have to help lead people on the journey with us. It won’t be easy, but someone much wiser than me said nothing worth doing is ever easy. So we start small, and honestly. We introduce our daughters/sons to the social world of our street, block, and neighborhood. We introduce our neighbors to our children and we let them know that our children need and want friendships and that we want and need our friends and neighbors to be in relationship with our children. We ask for friendship—maybe this is more overt than we have had to be, but that is OK too. There will be success and failure, acceptance and rejection. This is no different than any relationship we have all faced.
Just because our sons or daughters don’t really ask questions in conversation, or try to find out about the other person’s interest, doesn’t mean that a friendship can’t happen. Friendship is unique to the individuals involved. It doesn’t have to meet the standards of that rare, high-value friendship that you and I may have with one person. What is important is that through some form of friendship, we serve and are served by one another and “no man is useless while he has a friend.” –and is a friend.