By Jim Hunt
Did you ever receive a call from an old friend or work colleague that you hadn’t heard from or seen in years? And when that happened, did you wonder how the stars lined up for this person to reach out to you. Did they say that they were cleaning out their desk and your business card fell out and landed on the floor and it reminded them of a relationship or friendship from years ago? It might have been that they heard an old song or watched a movie, and they remembered that time at work when you came dressed like Annie Hall or had your hair fixed like Art Garfunkel. This has happened to me on several occasions, and it has never failed to put a smile on my face or give me a feeling of nostalgia.
As I pondered how this came about, I thought, “What if I intentionally reached out to people and checked in?” For the past several years, I have kept a list in my notebook of people I want to reach out to. I add to it and sometimes make the calls when I’m by myself, driving to the airport or in a hotel on business. When I connect with someone, I find that, often, they are in a down time in their life. A spouse has passed on or a favorite pet is in its last days. Sometimes it is a personal illness or a job change. During these calls, they will ask me why I decided to reach out to them, and I tell them I was just thinking about them.
We fail to realize how lonely it can become when you are going through a rough patch or just wanting to put your problems aside and relive an old high school basketball game or a concert. With social media, we seem to be connected to hundreds of “friends” but a “thumbs up” or a “heart” emoji, can hardly replace the voice from an old friend. And some of the loneliest people are good at creating a false veneer on social media to cover pain or sorrow in their lives. I never pry and sometimes the call is just a quick catch up from our last meeting or a twenty-minute discussion of a memory from the past. But occasionally they will share something, and you get the feeling that they just want a listening ear.
Khalif Gibran was quoted, “Friendship is always a sweet responsibility, never an opportunity” and I believe he captured how we should approach friendship. Are we only friends when there is something to gain, or do we adhere to an unspoken pledge to be there in times of joy and need. I have stood by the casket of a friend’s mother, and although we haven’t seen or spoken to each other in many years, we are transported back to the playground and the tears of sorrow are replaced by memories of a time when we were shooting baskets and for a moment, the sorrow lifted.
Simon and Garfunkel wrote a song in 1968, that I listened to in college and never truly connected with until a couple years ago. It is titled “Old Friends” and the lyrics include these words, “Can you imagine us years from today. Sharing a park bench quietly? How terribly strange to be seventy.” When I turned 70 in 2021, I wondered how they knew.