It was an open dirt patch on the edge of town, nothing more than a stripped-down field, really. Plows stood still along the edge while a lone digger puffed diesel smoke and carved out some dry clay from a small trench. This vast construction site in Edmonton was going to be a new development. The promising advertisement in the local paper made the sales pitch: this was, “Edmonton’s Friendliest Community” (starting from the $400’s). A picture in the advert showed a picnic with laughing friends living the dream.
How was a construction dirt-pile “Edmonton’s Friendliest Community?” No one even lived there yet?
The truth is that friendship is not a commodity we can buy or sell. It’s in a category quite apart from malls, showrooms, and catalogues. In a culture where we can buy entertainment, buy comfort and buy luxury, community and friendship stand as oddities. Meaningful relationships are not something we can buy into, it is something we must create and nurture – it’s something we foster.
The Gallup Organization’s director, Tom Rath, published research about the importance of friendship for our wellbeing. His work produced some surprising discoveries. He found that if you have a friend who eats healthy food, you’re more likely to make healthy choices yourself. Also, if you have friendships at work, you’re twelve times more likely to enjoy your work. The study further showed that friendship in the home makes a big difference with married people saying that friendship with their spouse is five times more important than sex.
Investing in building friendships can make our marriages stronger, our jobs more enjoyable, and can make us physically healthier and happier. We might say that friendships are crucial to our wellbeing, yet sadly it is often overlooked and neglected when we think about what really makes our lives rich and meaningful.
I want to say something really important here. It’s not easy to find close friends. They are like a rare treasure that doesn’t come along often. I’ve only had a few really close friends in my life and most of them today live too far away. Maybe we’re in the same boat. Maybe you feel like good friends are something that’s just not going to be found here and now.
There’s something I’ve learned as I’ve grown in my own faith. God knows our need for friends. He didn’t design us to live solo lives, but to live in community, surrounded by people who love us, and who we can love in return. I’ve learned that good friends are often a gift from God who come into our lives perhaps when we least expect it. With this, as in any deep need we have, Jesus shows us that his Father knows us, loves us, and gives us good gifts. My prayer today is that God would draw close to each of us and give us the gift of close friends.
Into the Neighbourhood Experiment:
Think of the closest friends you’ve had in your life. How did those friendships form?