Remember this childhood rhyme?
"Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and other is gold."
The rule is pretty simple -- go make shiny new friends -- but your longer term, old friends are like gold, always hold on to them.
While old friends certainly can feel comfortable like your favorite pair of slippers, there is something to be said for bringing new people into your life. Like shoes, a new pair is important now and then as different footwear is good for different terrain.
I have young children, and I have met many other wonderful men and women who have become "framily" to us. We live far from my sisters and my husband's brothers and so these are the people who have become part of our daily lives. We celebrate birthdays together, we vacation together, we help each other through rough patches. We cheer for each other's kids at soccer and baseball, we cry when we hear about divorces or illness. No, new friends don't have the history that our old friends share, but we are creating our new shared memories together, now. We live in the present, not in the past. Many of these friends have become as dear as our old friends and have quickly become people with whom I have no doubt that we'll know long into our gray hair days.
We've been dealing with some serious health issues in our home. Our family came up as soon as they heard (traveling 500+ miles from points south) -- but they can only do so much from afar. So, we've had to rely on our friends to provide practical support (rides, childcare) as well as emotional support (often including wine!) One of my old friends took an entire week of meals upon herself -- (filled my freezer, full!) and another paid her cleaning people to come get my house in order. That's old friends for you. (Go big or go home!)
I can't even begin to tell you how amazing it was to have our newer friends set up a MealTrain to feed us over these past few several weeks. And the most amazing part is how many people signed up to help us. Many people we knew socially, but they were not close friends. It's not like we actually need to be fed each day. At first, I resisted the idea. But as the weeks have gone on, I have discovered that there is nothing more nurturing than people who care who want to do something. A meal is something so basic -- but we have to eat. Helping nourish someone else, especially when there's nothing else you can really "do" takes on a greater meaning than usual.
No matter where I go, people are always offering help. And they call daily, they laugh and they cry with us. These people go beyond friends -- they've turned into what I like to call "framily." While some say blood is thicker than water, you can't choose your family, but you can choose your friends -- and they can choose you.
And then, there is an entirely different group of people that I have been talking with for what seems like years online, but we've yet to meet in real life. Yet I feel like I know them well and they me, too. I have no doubt that when we finally see each other, we'll embrace and settle in comfortably. These new friends bring new experiences, new stories, new ways of looking at things. They offer their friendship without strings attached. We just wind up being there for each other, connecting, providing comfort and advice not from a feeling of obligation but rather by choice.
Friends are the glue that keep us together. Whether old or new, the truth is that you have to be willing to receive help when it is offered, and you have to be able to give help when it is needed. True friendship is a balance of vulnerability. We don't want to always admit it when we need help, and often we don't want to request it or take it when it is offered. But in order to have friends, you have be a friend. And you have to forget about the "tit for tat" notion. People give freely without expecting anything in return. And a good friend knows when to give freely and when to be open to receive.