06 Oct Show Me Your Friends, and I’ll Show You Your Future
Last spring, my younger son graduated from 5th grade. The 5th grade awards night included recognition of all the clubs, academic award winners, attendance awards, character awards, and citizenship and teacher awards. Through an hour and a half of awards, the same kids kept standing up. You might think we’d get tired of seeing the same kids over and over, but you’d be wrong. I remained enthralled because I saw an interesting pattern emerge.
Besides their driven personalities, what do they all have in common?
They’re also friends.
They like each other. They hang out together after school and on the weekends. They play on the same sports teams. And even their mothers genuinely like each other. The kids clapped for one another and high-fived and pounded each other on the back. They posed for pictures and hugged.
At our church, we teach people that their friendships determine the quality and direction of their lives. I just saw it play out in real life among fifth graders. If these kids stick together, they’ll inspire one another to do better and be better for the rest of their lives. We’re always better together, as long as the people we choose to do “together” with share our values and goals.
It’s never too early to cultivate friendships.
Next week, I’m having lunch with my first best friend, Jenni, a girl I met in pre-K. In first grade, my parents moved us two hours away, and yet here we are some 35 years later still friends planning to have lunch together at the Longhorn in Cartersville. Maybe we bonded over running through sprinklers or screen doors. Maybe it was when we both had Chicken Pox and spent the night with each other since we were too contagious to go to school. Maybe we crossed our hearts and hoped to die when she shared the secrets of her parents divorce when we were in middle school. Years later, we both got married, and then she had a baby first. I didn’t see her for years, and then one cold day two Februarys ago, she traveled to my house with her family. The power was out because of a raging winter storm, and we ate dinner and laughed for hours by candlelight.
How does that happen that two people who haven’t really spent any meaningful time together in years can still have so much to talk about? How can they still be friends?
Over the years, I haven’t remained in touch with every best friend. Certainly, there are friends of the road and friends of the heart and sometimes you don’t know which is which until many years have passed. Sometimes, there’s a twinge of sadness at the remembrance of a season that will never be again. Even the friendships that go by way of a “see ya later alligator” and “good riddance” merit recognition because it’s through those relationships that our character is forged. And both of those things are okay. We don’t have to stay friends with every person we meet.
I’m lucky enough to share my life with many special people I love dearly. We clap and high five and pound each other on the back when things are good. We pose for pictures and we hug. We also cry and bring food and pound on each other’s doors when things are bad. Then, we hug again.
Today, I’m thinking about Forever We, the foundation of who we are as a company. When we go to schools and share our story in classrooms, this is what we talk about. We talk about friendship. Our friendships help make the hard stuff okay. Our friendships help give purpose and direction to our lives.
At Forever We, yes, we give dolls to kids.
Yes, we partner with organizations that support cancer research.
Yes, we have a book that’s also a teaching tool.
That’s what we do. But we do those things because we love our friends.
What we really do is inspire compassion through everyday opportunities to celebrate friendship.
How can you be a good friend today?