Although I have some friendships that seem to have grown of their own accord, I do believe most of mine have been made. We call it that, too: making friends. That verb is in there on purpose, because it isn’t just that friends suddenly are. Usually it happens gradually, the making process, and almost always with on-purpose effort on both sides.
Today, I made a new friend. I saw her at church on Sunday from afar, one of many new faces in our growing-quickly church. She and her husband were in the back and looked like people I would want to know, but in the rush of everything after church such as saying hi to people I already know and making sure I don’t leave the kids too long in the nursery, I just didn’t get to stop and meet them. But then there they were in our community group last night. They just moved here, and might only be here for a few months. Having been that exact same person before, I know: you almost don’t want to tell people because they’ll start to treat you temporarily.
So I gave her all of the ways to contact me, and then she came to my messy house and read books to my little boy and generally made this place really bright on a cold February day.
I told her a story while she was here, one that I don’t like to think about because it still makes me sad. It was from our temporary days in Chicago. We were there for four months, and did all of the things permanent people do: went to church, found a small group right away, joined a women’s Bible study. One Sunday, our small group got together to do a “service project,” making meals for some of the home-bound people from the church. We all brought ingredients for a certain dish and cooked together in the church’s big industrial kitchen. It was a warm, fun way to spend the afternoon.
When it came time to talk about who was going where to deliver what, the person in charge started explaining that there was one lady in particular who reaaaaally liked to talk and was terribly lonely. All of the others just wanted their food dropped off, but this one had specifically said she’d love some company as well. And would David and I be willing to deliver her meal? What can a person say to that but “yes.”
At the same time, the rest of the group began making plans to meet up in half an hour to have dinner at a nearby fast food place. As we wrote down the address where we would be bringing our meal and socializing with a sick, lonely woman, our temporary friends were all making plans to have fun without us.
I cried the whole drive to our appointment. Past the airport, over train tracks, up and down the rows of mobile homes until we found hers. I didn’t even want to get out of the car, but knew I had to. She was expecting us. What I didn’t know is that I was even lonelier than her, and probably needed her more in that moment than she needed us or our food.
We stayed for a few hours. It’s all sort of hazy now; I don’t remember what we talked about or even what she looked like. I remember she was kind and personable, and seemed joyful even though she had trouble just getting around her small home. She loved her cats. She loved Jesus. She loved me.
And that (the short version) is what I told my new friend today. I have been temporary, and know that temporary people need friends as much or more than anyone. And really, today was just like that other day. I invited her over in part because I know she is alone and new here, but I am the one who won. I got to share tea and real conversation with a new friend while my kids played happily around us. I’m making friendship, and even if it’s one I won’t get to keep for very long, I want to make it good.