My Best Friend

My house was full this past weekend, with my daughter and granddaughter and their canine chum. Our happy reunion was a long time coming. This time there were no snowstorms or colds or covid exposures to keep us apart. A winter hurricane blew through the day before our planned reunion. A hurricane in the winter seems like something from a science fiction movie. Torrential rain fell, flooding roads and filling basements, but we prevailed.

Abby is four. She is kind, polite, helpful. She helped me make banana bread, she painted masterpieces, and played pretend. We snuggled in bed and read stories and had naps. I found myself wondering what her life’s passion(s) will be, what will have her leap from bed and rub her hands together with excitement and enthusiasm, what role I can play in helping her realize her dreams, and what will her world look like when she is my age, when I am long gone. For now, I am more than privileged to be her best friend, an announcement she makes regularly coupled with a hug. And it got me thinking …

It is easy on some days to believe the world is imploding, that greed and selfishness and concern for things rather than people is winning out over caring for each other. I don’t think that is true, not in my heart of hearts, but some days it is hard to believe otherwise. When I watch Abby play, her heart full of goodness and imagination, my faith in the future is restored.

CBC Radio dedicated its programming to hope and joy and where to look to find it and how to hold on to it in these troubled times. The one common thread was kindness, making space for hope by letting kindness out and championing its existence. It’s so easy to get frustrated, to see things from only one perspective, to let impatience and intolerance win, to search for blame instead of solutions, while shuffling kindness off to the side. Abby’s four-year-old oath of friendship may be what all little girls tell their grandmas, but I remember the blessing of friendship from childhood and what those friends meant to me, all the details clearly etched on my heart.

The British Psychological Society reports that “friendship is the single most important thing affecting our psychological health and well-being, as well as our physical health and well-being.” The report goes on to say that “healthy friendships help us age better and protect our health.” It is no wonder then that during these times of restrictions and fears of covid we feel lost, our sense of belonging frayed. The impromptu gathering seems to be a thing of the past or certainly occurs with much less frequency. And it is understandable why young people are so frustrated with the rules when being with friends defines them, fuels them. As restrictions are being lifted, I can hear a collective sigh of relief and shouts of joy from the “young crowd”. We older types are less convinced this is the right thing to do. Hindsight is almost always a clearer view.

I will continue to call on the vast inventory of memories that friendship has blessed me with, so very grateful to have grown up where and when I did. I think most of us feel that way as we unpack the faces and the voices and the laughter and the hugs of those people who were and are our friends. It is a guaranteed solution to despair.

wendistewart@live.ca

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