One of the simplest songs I’ve taught at my international singing group is a round in English called ‘Make New Friends’. I think I learnt it on my dramatherapy training though I’m not 100% sure, but it’s so easy I was able to write it down for you:
It’s the line about valuing old friends that captures some of my thoughts following a very enjoyable weekend with a former school friend of mine and her husband. I’m pretty sure the song is from the USA: the Indigo Girls reference it in the bridge of their song Power of Two which is a favourite of an old university friend of mine, and which I have sung with yet another old university friend.
I’m not as good as I’d like to be at keeping up with any of these people, and while email and facebook can be useful tools, it’s not the same as actually visiting or making a phone call. But there can be a real ease of falling back into old friendships with shared history and experiences which can be very rewarding, even if a little catching up is required first. Quality time with people we care about has to be something worth making the effort to arrange.
Other stuff we hang on to is perhaps less valuable – I’ve got some long overdue sorting out to do of boxes of things I’ve barely opened since I moved here almost two years ago. Like many people I tend to hoard keepsakes that seem meaningful at the time, but could easily find plenty to recycle or donate to charity if I got round to it. It might also mean I track down some of the things I’ve been missing for a while, like my bag of crochet hooks. I know some people sort through friends like this (particularly on social networking sites) to cut down their numerous online contacts. I can’t say I’ve done this yet myself, but I have been ‘unfriended’ by a couple of people I don’t know so well and assume it’s not meant unkindly, even if it made me wonder. Maybe it helps them find the people they really want to keep in touch with.
My hosts for the weekend inadvertantly brought me back in touch with the brother of another old friend from Scotland and I’m hoping to catch up with them through the facebook ‘verse. I’ve lived in a good number of places and I know you can’t keep up with everyone, but facebook and other social networking sites let you try. I have enjoyed seeing something of the exploits of other old friends via the internet.
All this technology maybe leaves behind another group of valuable older people, and that was the final thing I wanted to blog about today. The new church I visited yesterday had many good qualities but was made up almost entirely of young(ish) adults with young children, and the lack of older people does affect the church dynamic. In this case they haven’t left so much as not joined yet, and I hope as the church grows and develops they will become a more balanced group. Other churches and organisations do lose older members as the focus and style changes and people feel less a part of something, and I think this can be a real shame. While times are changing fast there is always a benefit in recognising and valuing the experiences and strengths of others who have weathered storms and challenges before. When I’m too old to keep up with people, I hope someone will make the effort to slow down for me, and hopefully find it to be worth their while.