This past weekend, I spent two days at the “Happiest Place on Earth” (aka Disneyland). Although I could write a separate entry on the crazy Disney commercialism (that I was not immune to), I wanted to just spend a little time reflecting.
As I sat and watched my bestfriend, Michelle with her two sons, Shawn and Justin –I was struck by how long we’ve known each other. Not counting the fact that we had mutual friends in gradeschool, Michelle and I have known each other for 22 years. Clearly, there’s a lot of history there. Despite the fact that we’ve lived in different cities for the past 18 years, we’ve somehow managed to stay in touch. Granted, some months –or really years are better than others. We’re both mid-career professionals that have traveled different roads to get where we are today. We’ve clearly grown into different people, but you can’t really expect friendships that you started when you were 14 years old to be the same when you’re 36. I know that there are parts of our lives that remain a mystery to the other –but it doesn’t really matter. As I watched her with her sons this past weekend, I still saw all the qualities that I admired in her as a friend so many years ago. She instills in her boys the importance of values and principles, the importance of respect and discipline, while simultaneously giving them the space to just have fun. Above all else, she gives them unconditional love. All these things will help these boys grow into strong young men. As a friend, I admire her more today than I did 22 years ago, and learn so much from simply being around her.
I’ve thought a lot about what we teach our youth –and I don’t necessarily mean from a pedagogical perspective (although as a professor I think about that too.)
When my friends, Rigo and Rosalba, asked me to be the godmother to their youngest daughter, Nadya –I felt (and still do) an immense and humbling sense of responsibility. Maybe this feels different to someone who isn’t single without kids. I realize that when I participate in Nadya’s life –that in the absence of her parents, that I also teach the values, principles and beliefs that they hold dearest to them. Maybe the real humbling thing is realizing that you’re part of their family.
Friends represent our family of choice –the people that we interweave into all aspects of our lives. Those that we choose to love and value. I was reminded recently when watching a clip of the late John Delloro –that sometimes in families we love each other a lot, and sometimes we bicker and fight but it doesn’t matter, we’re still family. We can argue one minute, and defend the other’s honor the next. bell hooks reminds us in her book, All About Love: New Visions that,
Being part of a loving community does not mean we will not face conflicts, betrayals, negative outcomes from positive actions, or bad things happening to good people. Love allows us to confront these negative realities in a manner that is life-affirming and life-enhancing (2000, 139)
The important thing is that despite the craziness and madness that easily separates us, when we value and have a little faith in one another, that friendship can overcome anything –distance, life changes, and any number of other differences that arise over time.
For my friends who are reading this, whether you live near or far. Talked to you in the not so recent past or yesterday. Please know you’re in my heart and that I am a better person because you’re in my life.