In the west, we are now a very lonely society. Cultural changes have made it difficult for people to put down roots that build community. People move from place to place, we watch screens so we don’t need to talk to strangers and build fences and walls to separate ourselves from the nosiness of our neighbours.
Eight years ago, I moved five times in one year. It was not an easy time. I was at an advantage that when I made my first big move I was returning to a city that I had grown up in, and I owned my own car which meant I could travel to meet up with friends very easily (which is good, as move number three was to a farmhouse in West Lothian). I was however leaving behind a family of friends I had created over six years. For the final three years in Aberdeen I lived in my own flat, and the year after I moved, friends from church moved onto the same street, and we regularly went between all our homes. When someone needed to go to hospital, I would drive them. When I got sick with mumps, they came round with hand blenders, fruit and vegetables. When their washing machine broke down they would use my spare key to come round and use mine.
When I was younger I found making friends easy. From my first day at university I was proactive and intentional in making friends – I kept my door open, I had kettles and teabags at the ready (despite the fact I’ve never been a tea drinker), I offered to help anyone who appeared with unpacking their car of boxes and bags who arrived after I did.
As I’ve gotten older, making friends has not come as easily. Time pressures, life changes make spontaneity more difficult. It takes effort, and prioritising time. For years I grumped and moaned about loneliness of living nowhere near any of my friends. And then I realised I needed to go and be a friend to people who lived locally instead of complaining or waiting for friendships to magically happen.
I am very lucky to have many friends. I love being a friend to them. Yes, being a friend looks different now to what it did when I was 19, but the principles are the same.
You want to make a friend? Be a friend to someone…