At the age of 25 we have more friends than at any other time in our life, so says those who study such things. Research indicates people at that age are still connected to high school friends, have made college friends, and are now adding work colleagues to that list. Then things change.
Moving, careers, marriage and parenthood all impact how many of those friends we bring along with us since these transitions affect the amount of time we have for them. As that time becomes more limited we tend to invest more deeply…but in fewer…friendships. It then becomes more difficult to make new ones.
But sometimes there are surprises. Unexpected…but oh, such sweet surprises.
I was never very comfortable around older people; particularly those living in nursing homes. My father was a pastor so his work took him into these care homes regularly for visits and to lead church services. Growing up he would often ask me to go along and accompany hymns that would be part of the service. I went—not because I wanted to, but because he asked.
My mother was a nurse who spent much of her career working in nursing homes. When I was still living at home she was asked to pilot a dementia project in the city where we were living. She asked me to come and play the piano a couple of times during the project. I went—not because I wanted to, but because she asked.
So imagine the surprise I gave myself when I started visiting someone in a nursing home.
It followed a conversation with an activity director who shared the challenge of trying to plan group activities while also wishing there was more time for one-on-one conversation. She mentioned a woman named Marie, and how much she would appreciate if someone could come and read Scripture to her.
I sat on that for a couple of months until a separate conversation with a good friend who has connections to long term care and was looking for ways to increase interaction between members of the community and those living in the care center. Okay, it was time.
I remember so clearly the evening I went to visit Marie for the first time. I didn't know where her room was. She wouldn't know who I was. How was this supposed to come together? As I drove over in the rain that night I remember saying, "God, you are going to have to help me with this."
I walked in and just through the doors in the dining room was a nurse I knew, and one I hadn't seen in quite some time. We briefly got reacquainted and then talked about why I was there that evening. She took me right to Marie's room, introduced me and asked if she would like to have someone come visit and spend time reading the Bible. Marie smiled and said how nice that would be.
And so began a weekly get together. We would read and we would visit. I learned about her life as a young girl, her family, her travels, her garden and her love of flowers. She learned about my family and would often ask about them. We talked about raising children, the church, any special activities that had taken place during the day, and she always asked how the roads were.
At the end of each visit she would thank me for coming—which wasn't necessary. I was blessed far more than I deserved by her time, her interest, her dedication to Scripture reading, and by the hands that held mine when we prayed together. It was not a volunteer role--it was a friendship. So unexpected, but so precious to me.
Marie passed away last week. She was 97. I am going to miss our time together so much, but I am so thankful she was open to starting a new friendship and sharing her heart with me.
It might be easiest making new friends before we're 25 but some of the most meaningful ones may very well come later. And they just might come as extraordinary surprises. That's my outlook.