“Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.”
These are the words of a song I sang with my mother as a child and as a Girl Scout – does anyone else remember them?
Friendships show us the love and humanity inside us that is our essence. We discover ourselves through doing things together, talking over current life issues and future goals. New friends give us a fresh chance for discovery and playfulness as we look for their unique qualities and bounce those qualities against our own. Old friends are actually part of us already and, in some ways, they might know us better than we know ourselves. As friends, we underscore and amplify each other’s values and uniqueness; we stand in each other’s truth. We are there for each other in celebrations and in rough times, giving moral support and delighting in each others’ company.
I recently attended my 50th high school reunion for the women of my graduating class, and was moved to see these women again after so long. Out of 42 women, 23 of us attended – a pretty good percentage I’d say. I had not really kept in touch with any of them except one who is my first cousin. One came from Panama, one from Italy, one from Australia, and the rest from around the USA. Even though so many years had passed, there was a strong and positive link between us, probably because of the formative experiences of those teenage years. Many professions are represented: doctors, lawyers, actors and acting teachers, psychotherapists, schoolteachers for all ages, musicians, visual artists. But I think I’m the only yoga teacher in the bunch. As I talked with many of them, I saw through their eyes and careers how the past 50 years have shaped us from our schoolgirl selves. It was impressive.
Walking around the school and remembering stories, I felt like I was almost able to see myself again at that age. Those experiences are still inside me, having partly shaped who I am today, for better and for worse. And these women were part of it.
Then I think of new friends I’ve made – through family connections, yoga connections and just living in a crowded city. They are neighbors, students, in-laws and colleagues. One of them said to me recently: “We’ve worked together but I don’t really know much about you – let’s have lunch and talk.” Connections grow from curiosity – what is common between us? What is different and how might I grow from that? Friendship grows from spending time together, listening, and opening the inner door to new understandings of the marvelous diversity and complexity of human nature. It’s a risk sometimes, but a risk worth taking. And then silver can turn to gold.
Photo: My High School Reunion, Class of ‘66