During this last weekend over lunch I was discussing with one of our Boarding staff how the meaning of “friend” has been affected by the way it is used by Facebook where the true meaning and importance of being a friend has been devalued, such that in Facebook language “friend” really means little more than a connection. Such an understanding of “friend” does not equate with what I think being a friend means; someone who cares for, looks out for, and who stands by us, through the good and bad times, and to whom we would tell our deepest secrets and concerns. To that end I suspect none of us has 2,024 friends or any other large number of friends as I sometime note on Facebook!
When I was a head of university colleges I would often use as an “ice breaker” in the Orientation Week programs for new Residential Assistants at the beginning of the academic year the question “Why do you think your friends like you?” It is not a question for which we usually have a ready answer and certainly not if we are going to be asked to answer it in front of other people. It makes us think and compels us to reflect upon what it is that draws us to those whom we call our friends. My memory is that their answers often mentioned they were funny, they shared similar interests, they were reliable and kept secrets, they cared for and about them.
Developing friendships is an important part of growing up and making our way in the world. Some friendships will be of a time and/or place while others will be sustained however often or rarely we meet up and however close or far apart we live. I trust that the foundation of good life-long friendships might be one of the benefits our students gain from being at this School.
Friendship was important to Jesus for as St John records Jesus said “Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down their life for their friends”. Any reading of the Gospel accounts reminds us that Jesus had friends, and not only the twelve disciples said to be closest to him, for his friendship circle included Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, Mary Magdalene, Susanna, and Joanna.
Let us all praise God for our friends and pray that at all times and in all places and in all circumstances our friends will be there as our very strength and source of wisdom, love and hope; as we would be for them!
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