So What Is Friendship?
My six-year-old tells me Renatt is her best friend. She gets this dreamy look in her face. When she sees Renatt, they hug each other and hold hands. They are only six years old and can spend hours chatting. When I asked what they chat about, she told me important things like Hashem and homeless people.
Over the years, my kids have had many close friends leave for the suburbs and we usually lose contact after a few months – kids in Manhattan definitely see friends come and go. I notice that even “Best Friends” are soon forgotten. I often wonder if these intense but transient relationships will impact my kids long term.
I grew up in Johannesburg. My parents are still friends with people they met when I started nursery school. This year, I was at a family event and my parents had friends there from their school years. The average friendship was 30 years plus. Wow! In contrast, I left home at 17 and went to Israel. Prior to coming to Manhattan, I lived in nine cities in five countries. While I found stability in Manhattan for the last 10 years, most people around me are transient. Hundreds have left Manhattan and most don’t have permanent plans to stay. I am still in contact with a few people from each place I lived and I often wonder what is the test of friendship? The fact that we still see each other when the opportunity arises? The fact that I am still on their Rosh Hashana greetings list? Now, with Facebook, I have reconnected with many old “friends”…
The old adage is “a friend in need is a friend indeed”…..hmm, a tough one to measure friendship by. After Caily was born, we contacted our closest friends personally and emailed others to share the news . There were amazing friends supporting us and there was even one supposed friend who just disappeared. Not even a text message. We have had ample opportunity reflect on what friendship means over the last few months. One supposed friend even called to threaten us to stop our campaign for inclusion. His wife keeps reaching out to us for social events simply making me wonder if she has an idea about her husband’s actions.
I know that I would rather live in a world that has the friendships my parents enjoy. Over the years they have watched each other’s kids grow from babies to adults, they have been to the weddings of these friends’ children and now my parents are forever going to brises and, in some cases, bar mitzvahs of their friend’s grandchildren. I simply do not live in that kind of world.
What is the message we should share with our kids about friendship? Is a friend someone that you simply connect with and they are your friend for now? Is a friendship something that stands test of time? Is the person that’s always there for you the true friend? Friendship requires giving and sharing – how do we communicate this in a transient world?
Originally published: June 25, 2020