Bonds of friendship deserve effort

Today is the 12th Day of Christmas which reminds of a get-together I had last week. My long-time friend and I had coffee. It was a notable day, for sure. It was a celebration, you might say, but in a don’t-get-too-sappy, guy sort of way. No candles or presents or cards, just a brief acknowledgement that we had reached our goal; we had accomplished what we set out to do: Have coffee together once a month during 2015.

You could say we were celebrating the 12 Days of Starbucks.

Last January getting up from the table after finishing our coffee and our conversation, one of us said something to the effect of: “We should try to meet for coffee once a month this coming year.” We didn’t shake on it or write it down like a contract, my friend and I don’t usually do things that way. We just kept it in our minds that we would make an effort.

One would think that finding a couple of hours once a month to have coffee with a friend wouldn’t be a problem. It’s funny, though, how life gets in the way especially, it seems, as we got older. When we were younger, the guys in our group always found time to hang out. Even after most of us got married and started families, the occasional meeting for coffee or drinks wasn’t much of a problem.

But as the years went on, our lives became consumed with the day-to-day, minute-by-minute obligations that befall us all. Kids, grandkids, jobs, commitments to organizations and such, all of these are high priority and vitally important. Each of our obligations demands attention and together they consume the finite number of hours we are allotted. “There are only so many hours in a day,” has been my go-to justification for assigning time-dependent priorities most of my adult life.

Over the years, our circle of coffee-drinking buddies shrank until now it is just the two of us. You might think the fewer participants, the easier the coordination of calendars. It’s true, the complications my wife and her three long-time friends encounter whenever they try to settle on a time to meet for lunch sometimes reminds me of the precise planning that must go into a special operations strike by an elite military unit. The thing is, it doesn’t seem that much easier with just the two of us.

I think one reason we like to meet periodically is because we know each other so well. We have been through, more or less, our entire lives together. We don’t agree on some things, and occasionally we fall into arguments over inconsequential phenomena, (usually politics). But we understand and trust each other, and we know that, other than our spouses, we communicate easily and on a higher level than we can with almost anyone else.

Psychologists say there are levels of communication that might be imagined as a pyramid ranging from talking in cliches, sharing information, sharing opinions and culminating in the sharing of values, feelings and confession. It is a great blessing to have friends, old or new, with whom one can communicate on the highest levels.

As difficult as it is, my friend and I still make the attempt to see each other on a somewhat regular basis. It is important to both of us. C.S. Lewis said, “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art … It has no survival value, rather it is one of those things that gives value to survival.”

That is why we are going to shoot for another year of monthly meetings — another 12 Days of Starbucks.