We are all aware of how people are most generous, joyful and amazing when talking to and about their friends. Perhaps the simplest and most visible force that forms and maintains friendships is spending time together and among themselves. It is not even surprising that it takes shape in places where people spend a lot of their time whether at work, school or even in their sporting activities. Sometimes this time builds up slowly, as it happens with two neighbours who live side by side and talk to each other daily. Some for twenty years!
Making friends can indeed be difficult, but there may be more opportunities than we think. And I may believe here that communication can come from anywhere and at any time! So you have to look for friendship in places you would never expect. Moreover, if I could tell there might be a new friend waiting in the comments section with an article you’re reading! As much as we feel that our social networks are set up and stabilised, it’s never too late to meet someone important to you and for the rest of your life.
Personally, I find the effort of coordinating (or even phone calls) the biggest barrier to seeing friends. Perhaps it is much easier when something is brought into your agenda and all you have to do is show up. Emphasising here that society has a place for friendships, but unfortunately, it is on the sidelines. Society is supposed to play a supportive role in work and the family and to design the lives of individuals so that true friendship plays the role that society hopes for with the solidarity of its people.
Here I was inspired by some of the people I spoke with at one point who imagined something different for themselves: friends who went to therapy together and whose struggle for justice was fueled by friendship. To mention the man who gave his kidney to his friend... Are there true friends who choose to love each other so radically every day? Perhaps what I’m talking about are ideals, it is impossible in our time to live up to a full level and life often gets in the way... but it certainly exists in our lives!
On the other hand, most true friends report that they don’t see each other often, or that they don’t talk as much as they want to. The truth and without a doubt I see here is that friendship does not always have to be about presence, it can also be about love that can overcome absence.
Yet absences don’t have to last forever. There are elementary school friends who start meeting their former classmates again after a fifty-year reunion and even best friends who reconnect after someone decides to return a shirt or souvenir that was given to them twenty years ago.
In the end, I have always liked the concept of grace, that gift which is really profound. So when I mention grace here as the last and most important force in friendships, I mean it in two ways. The first is the forgiveness we offer to each other. The other is the space that creates connections which seems nothing short of miraculous.
Dr Yousuf Ali Al Mulla is a physician, medical innovator and writer.