The good old times, the shuttered shop that still silently welcomes the traveler, the conversations that bound friends together here, now memories by a cracked blacktop and a state highway in a little village along the way. The green shows up abundantly still, signs of life yet hoping for more.
Of all the changes that face us in elderhood, making new friends is supposed to be one of the really good ways to stay healthy in mind, body and spirit. Of all the things that we elders are being told we must do, this one can be one of the hardest (possibly second only to exercise). In later elderhood, making new friends takes an energy that we may not have enough of any more.
For introverts, the challenge increases with every year under our belts. Never very good at making lots of friends in the first place, we now learn that we should still make more than the few that we may already have.
Death has taken some of the friends we were closest to, and others have moved away to be closer to children or entered communal housing of one sort or another.
We amazing humans do have to have friends always, but when it becomes an obligation for which we have less physical or emotional energy, it can seem one more thing too much.
Sometimes, though, some miracles come along and all we had to do was to show up. (Not always an easy thing for an introvert, either, when we love to just snuggle down in our own little alone space.)
These little miracles have shown up more than once in the past few months of my later elder life. And they have all begun just because I showed up someplace new. Because I said, “Yes!” when my natural tendency can be to say, “I’ll think about it.”
The first arrived when I said, “Yes,” to a little church twenty miles north of where I live. I’ve been preaching there since September 23rd. What began as a one-week opportunity has stretched out into what will be nearly a year. And in this year, I have met and become good friends with so many amazing people, especially women. Strong women, loving women, open-hearted women, laughing women, creative women, deeply thoughtful women.
So it was that I drove 42 miles last Sunday after leading worship (a time when my energy can be lower) to attend the surprise birthday party of the woman who got me involved with this lovely little church in the first place. Kay had turned 75. Kay is an extrovert, so there were many dear friends who came from near and far to celebrate her. Some of them were part of her circle that had already welcomed me in months ago.
Kay wasn’t the only one who received gifts that day. I think I may well have been the one who got the best one: a still growing circle of new friends.
I spent most of my time talking to two people. (Don’t @me, it’s the way of the introvert already, so I was just being “me.”) They were a clergy couple my age whose paths mirrored my own in so many incalculable and meaningful ways that we became fast friends. Cards were exchanged. Emails have followed. Lunch in Red Wing is in the near future. Kindred spirits – at a laughter-filled birthday party filled with celebrating people.
Shall I tell you what happens when friendship miracles show up? Joy happens. And perhaps it is all the sweeter because it might well not have happened.
Showing up. That’s all it took.
The rest took care of itself.
And I’m very okay with that.