with

Mike Bellah

I'm convinced that friendship is the greatest gift you can give a midlifer.



 
 
 
 

A little time, a listening ear, a word of encouragement, an accepting attitude, a contagious smile--all are valuable gifts that will win us friends.



 
 
 
 

Friends don't give up on friends.

That's What Friends Are For

 Last night we watched Steel Magnolias on videotape. You probably remember this 1989 film about a midlife mother who loses her adult daughter to diabetes. Steel Magnolias is mostly a film about friendships among women. Sally Field is able to survive her personal tragedy because she is helped along by the likes of Dolly Parton and Shirley McClain. 

Steel Magnolias, joined by other movies like Beaches and Fried Green Tomatoes and--on the men's side--City Slickers and Shawshank Redemption, reminds us that today's audiences yearn for meaningful friendships. The reason for this could very well be rooted in the middle-aging of America. As we grow older we realize that friends are some of life's best gifts. In fact, I'm convinced that friendship is the greatest gift you can give a midlifer.

But friendship does not always come easily in midlife. Often we lose friends at this time when we need them most. Death, divorce, job loss, and cross-country moves can all separate us from old friends and leave us needing some new ones. With this in mind, I have three suggestions for developing new friends at midlife.

Finding friends

C. S. Lewis reminds us that friends do not stand face-to-face as lovers do, but side-by-side. Friends are not so occupied with each other as much as they are with a common interest or value. This is why the best place to look for friends is somewhere people gather with like interests: a church, a classic car club, a poetry class, or a country music concert. The alternatives are limitless. To find friends, simply define your interests and values and find a group that gathers to celebrate them.

Making friends

"Everyone is a friend to him who gives gifts," says wise King Solomon (Proverbs 19:6). Solomon is not talking about someone who buys friends with money but about the natural consequences of being a giving person. We make friends by giving of ourselves. A little time, a listening ear, a word of encouragement, an accepting attitude, a contagious smile--all are valuable gifts that will win us friends.

Keeping friends

Solomon also has advice for keeping friends. "A friend loves at all times," he says (Proverbs 17:17). True friends are most noticeable during tough times. When we are hurting, broke, accused, or alone--this is when we notice real friends. They are the ones who don't just talk about us, but to us. They are the ones who show up on our doorsteps with sleeves rolled up ready to help. So if you want to not only find and make, but keep friends too, be a stayer. Friends don't give up on friends. As Dionne Warwick and friends said in their 1987 Song of the Year, "That's What Friends Are For."

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