Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


This is Retirement Talk with Del Lowery

Episode 380 (077)  Friends

“He who has many friends, has no friends”. I think Aristotle said that. That idea came from some college class in the far, far distant past.  Life experience has supported the truth of it. It seems like developing friendship requires a certain amount of time. Duration, not intensity, is necessary. That’s why it is so much fun to run into an ol’ friend. You have so much history that it is very easy to just take up right where you left off many years ago.

What I really wanted to talk about was how to get friends when one is a bit short.  We can't just pick one up at Costco or Starbucks. I wish there was a quick and easy way, and perhaps there is, but I don’t know what it might be. Perhaps by glancing backward at how we came by friends in the past we might discover a hint at how to enlarge our present circle.

When my wife and I consider our immediate friends (people we have lunch with or trade dinner invitations) here is how we met:Amnesty International Meetings, collecting signatures for a ballot issue, two former students – one is a student I had thirty odd years ago and the other is a student I had in class perhaps twenty years ago. Another friend is someone I meet through working as a volunteer with the parks department. Another I meet while volunteering at a radio station. Another I meet through playing the classical guitar. Another through a weaving class my wife took close to forty years ago. Two others I met while running for political office. They were a big help in a lost cause. That seems like a pretty long list. I’m surprised. Of course, there are many other folks that we know but have somehow not been lunch or dinner companions on multiple occasions. I’m trying to be honest.

Most were met through volunteer organizations or efforts in which we participated. Maybe that is the answer to finding friends: volunteering. I guess that is a pretty good deal. You not only get to join with others in some sort of community effort, but you get a friend out of the deal.

Of course, it must be said that some people remain friends all of our lives. They may live far away; we may not see them often, but there is a strong bond that never seems to weaken. These are the friends produced from mutual caring, and have endured the test of time. They are the best kind. I take that back. I’m not sure they are any better than the most recently found friend; all friends are valued. At any rate; someone said that friends are two people with one soul; sounds good to me.

My friend John and I use to go biking at least a couple times a week after work. We would ride swerving from side to side. Explore new trails and streets and usually end up at an ice cream shop or coffee shop. We went for fun rides, not serious, hard core rides. He was the funniest guy I ever knew. He made me laugh. We joined a health club; lifted weights, play racket ball or just hung out and BS’d.

We’d go to lunch. Get in trouble at work. Sometimes rescue teachers or students whom we thought had been mistreated by someone – any one; other teachers or administrators. We would make light of whatever we thought deserved it. When the administration decided that teachers would not be excused to go see the Pope when he visited Anchorage, we cheated and went anyway. That’s what I call a friend. Two people, both going the same direction – at least some of the time. We really were quite different people. I think that’s why we got along so well. We complimented each other. I’m not sure who was the bad guy and who was the bad guy.

A few years ago I was advised to join Facebook. I was told it would really help me gain listeners to this podcast. I joined. It was fun to reconnect and get a glimpse into the daily life of some real friends and family.

Then I started getting emails telling me that so-and-so wanted to be my friend. I felt embarrassed, cheap, shoddy, and abused. Friends always meant more to me that someone mailing me their name and then assuming I was their friend. What is that? I did know these people. Their names were in my computer address book, but – friends? I don’t think so. I mean, some of them, yes, but most were people I would call an acquaintance, someone with whom I had done business, or met in a meeting.

I tried to drop my subscription to Facebook. It isn’t easy. I did manage to “inactivate” my account – whatever that means. At least I don’t get any more invitations to be “friends”. And I hoped no one was getting invitations from me to, “be my friend”. This effort to disconnect lasted a couple of months. I've since reactivated my membership. I missed the contact with real friends and family.

I’m sure we all have those moments when we think we don’t have any real good friends or not enough of them anyway. Friends have a way of coming and going. Like my friend, John. When we retired he moved to Panama City, Florida and we to Bellingham, Washington. We were twenty years without seeing each other and then we stopped for a visit a few years ago while on a road trip. It was like we had never been apart. Laughter filled our time. John has since died and I do miss knowing he is somewhere still laughing.

One thing seems evident: if we want to get some new friends we need to get out and about. We can't connect by hiding in the living room with the shades pulled. Unless maybe Amazon or E-bay.....

It is something to think about.


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