My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me. ~ Henry Ford
In 1935, the U.S. Congress declared the first Sunday in August a holiday to honor friendship. This year it is Sunday, August 2nd.
To celebrate the occasion I wanted to honor my best friend, Joel Morgovsky. Yes, that’s us over the past 35 years — and he just had a birthday, a milestone at that. The observance gave me pause for thought about the length of our friendship and the love — there is no better word for it — for each other.
The textured fabric of our 35 years together has fashioned a solid friendship through the weaving of births, deaths, jobs, grieving, weddings, loss of other relationships, dinners, parties, conferences, bike rides, ideas, failures, setbacks, and endless conversations about art, science, psychology, food, books, the news, and music — even recently a jazz concert in the city. We’ve vacationed, raced our bikes together, swapped jokes, struggled with learning the latest technology, lamented our aches and pains, adjusted our eyesight as we’ve aged, discussed good and bad movies, Broadway shows, cars and our latest projects.
But, no matter the topic or occasion you can bet on one thing: We’ll talk about our children — their trials, successes, dreams, and careers.
The news is always hard to review. There is some big bad thing going on somewhere in the world. We shake our heads, wonder how this all could be, and after a mindful silence move to something easier to chat about, easier to weave into the fabric.
He is in my heart. When I’ve had painful days or a confusing time, he sorts it out with me. He will always take my side unless I’m wrong. Then he’ll bring everything around to me, gently, until I see things differently. I listen to him, even when it is sometimes hard to do. He is irreplaceable.
Science tells us that friendships are adaptive, and that they depend, at least to some degree, on the memory and feelings connected with past interactions. When men bond they compete better in the world, and when women bond they have less stress and live longer.
Friendships are part of evolution. It extends our tribe. It helps make the world a little safer. The need for friendship is woven into our genes. The key, say the experts, is reciprocity and nurturance. The golden rule is to be the friend you would like to have. To make this happen, carve out time for each other. Make it a priority.
Over 35 years we have always done this. Our schedules and commitments and duties might make for a long stretch between getting together, maybe three or four weeks. But getting together is always on our mutual agendas. Friendship is a living organism that needs to be nurtured.
What’s curious is that until recently we weren’t Facebook friends. We both have accounts with extensive networks, yet this hasn’t become our vehicle for intimacy.
In preparing for this article I reviewed the latest research out of UCLA, a very nice bit of inquiry entitled (in part): Me and My 400 Friends. It is about how college students use their status postings of emotional disclosure on Facebook and how this leads to a type of intimacy and greater well-being. The researchers point to the need for permanent relations in our highly mobile world, and I agree. It can be an amazing way to gain satisfying and enduring social support. No doubt this will be the standard for emotional networking for the future. Nonetheless, Joel and I predate the Internet and when we “like” something the other has done, we prefer to do it the old-fashioned way, face to face.
Find a way to celebrate your friendships in honor of Friendship Day. Email, text, send a card, go for lunch, instant message, take a walk together, or give a call. How you do it doesn’t really matter, but doing it is important. In fact, Tom Rath, New York Times best-selling author from Gallup, Inc. says friends are worth more than money in the bank. He asked people if they would rather have a best friend at work or a 10 percent pay raise. Having a friend clearly won.
Which reminds me — Joel, are you free on Sunday?
Rath, T. (2006). Vital friends: The people you can’t afford to live without. Gallup Press.
Manago, A. M., Taylor, T., & Greenfield, P. M. (2012). Me and my 400 friends: the anatomy of college students’ Facebook networks, their communication patterns, and well-being. Developmental Psychology, 48(2), 369.