This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.
I've entitled this program "Friends".
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 was my friend.
We joined a health club together; lifted weights, played 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 – anyone; other teachers or administrators. We would skip out on required teacher workshops and 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 in 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 good guy.
Having a good friend at work is the most important factor in determining happiness. That is what I heard on a radio program the other day. The professor had done some sort of study and made this discovery. I haven’t thought this one through yet but I suspect he may be right.
My friend John was a work friend. I saw him once after we retired in Panama City, Florida a long way from where we live. He died a few years ago. I miss him.
Retirement forces us into another world. We don’t have that workplace connection. We have to look elsewhere for friends. Many folks I know have looked to church for this connection. They seem to all be Unitarians. They like to get together with like minded people and share ideas, hopes and jokes. It seems to be a hotbed for old professors.
Recently I was advised to join Facebook. I was told it would really help me gain listeners to this podcast. I joined. 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 or group.
This casual reference and procurement of “friends” offended my sense of the true value of real friends. I guess that “friends” in a Facebook sense doesn’t really mean “friends” in a true sense. Better if they were called something else: like acquaintance or contacts. I don’t like to see our language devalued.
“He who has many friends, has no friends”. Aristotle said something like that. 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. It is easy to just take up right where you left off many years ago.
What I really want to talk about in this podcast is how to get friends when one is retired. When my wife and I consider our immediate friends, or friends at the moment, people with whom we feel this strong connection and trade dinner invitations we discover the following history of how we met: Amnesty International Meetings, collecting signatures for a ballot issue, a former student I had in class perhaps twenty years ago and his wife. Another friend is someone I met through working as a volunteer with the parks department and his wife who use to be a friend of a good friend. Another is a woman that my wife met in a weaver class 40 odd years ago in Alaska and her husband. Two others are artist that we met through our Amnesty friends.
These are all friends that have recently been to our house for dinner – more than once. 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 dinner companions on multiple occasions.
Most were met through volunteer organizations or efforts in which we participated. Maybe that is the answer to finding friends: volunteering. No wonder it is widely touted. You not only get to join with others in some sort of community effort, but you get a friend or friends out of the deal.
Of course, it should 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. Their friendship has endured the test of time. I haven't included them in the list of recent dinner guests. 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 valuable.
We just need to remember that developing friends require a little effort. We have to get up and get out. Opportunities are many. It is just a matter of taking the initiative.
This is Retirement Talk.