“It's the ones you can call up at 4:00 a.m. that really matter.”
Sounds like a recent campaign ad from one of the presidential candidates, doesn’t it? Actually, that quote is from actress Marlene Dietrich on the subject of friends.
Friends are often overlooked when we compile our family histories. They don’t show up in our family tree, but their influence on our lives is often profound. Our most intense personal experiences often involve non-family members.
I stress the importance of friends in my legacy letter writing workshops where we explore best friends at various stages of our lives. Friends often move so seamlessly through our lives that we’re barely aware of their importance in our life journey until after they’re gone. A lifelong friend is a treasure, indeed.
The best perspective on a family’s inner workings is often from outside the family, from a distance close enough to observe but distant enough to not be drawn into the process itself. That’s why I recommend using someone from outside the family to conduct interviews. People are more likely to say things to a perfect stranger that they would never dream of mentioning to a family member.
Friendships can be difficult to maintain in a modern lifestyle. As Kelly Rigby writes in a recent guest post on zenhabits, “Friendship is like a marriage. It cannot be created once. It must be created over and over again.”
Think, too, of those fleeting friendships that are formed in times of stress, such as “foxhole buddies” in time of war. Often intense, these relationships can help ordinary people survive extraordinary circumstances.
Photo: Linda Lehmer and friends by lwlehmer.