friendships

This week marks the homestretch of the holiday season. After a multi-week focus on shopping and parties, most people will turn their attention to faith, friends and family this week. The week will be full of gift exchanges and reconnecting with relatives and friends seen far too infrequently. Hopefully, amid the hustle and bustle, quiet moments reconnecting with one’s faith will also be a part of your Christmas experience.

One of the great traditions of December is the plethora of parties and get-togethers. These provide opportunities to see people that we don’t regularly see. The reward for the busyness of trying to attend as many parties as possible is the opportunity to renew relationships, many of which we have let slip away over the last year or more.

Last night, as we hosted the last of several parties we have hosted in the last few weeks for various groups of friends, a thought occurred to me. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to carry some of this seasonal hospitality into the new year and throughout the year? Specifically, the thought that occurred to me is, why is it that so many of us host and attend parties in December but then initiate or are invited to few social events during the rest of the year?

How much richer would our lives be if we hosted parties for friends throughout the year instead of just in December? Similarly, wouldn’t it enrich the teamwork and comradery at our workplace if we had events during the year that would allow us to interact with coworkers and possibly their families in a social setting?

The phenomenon of Facebook proves that people desire to be connected. Facebook has been an effective vehicle to allow people to reconnect with old friends, classmates, former coworkers, lost relatives, etc. In my own family, I have seen it be an effective tool to help people make a first step toward re-establishing relationships that had faded away with the passage of time.

But there is a conundrum about Facebook and other digital age methods of connecting with others. Relationships that are based solely on electronic connections lack the robustness that happens when people actually get together face to face. Research shows that Facebook is an effective way to connect people, but it does not replace actually interacting with someone in the same room. In fact, without being in the same room with people periodically, most social media based relationships get stalled before they achieve the closeness that most of us yearn for.

If we were to conduct a poll on the things that people wish they had in life, I suspect that having more close friends would be at or near the top of most people’s list. However, developing close friendships does not happen easily. Especially when you consider the busy condition of most of our lives, making a firm commitment to do the things necessary to invest in and grow relationships is essential.

My challenge to you is to make a list of two or three people that you reconnected with during this holiday season, and then take actions to enhance your relationship with them. Consider inviting them to lunch or have a party or social event during the lonely months of January and February. Or perhaps there is some particular activity that you used to enjoy together. Maybe this means inviting them to a play, concert or sporting event. Or you might prefer an outdoor activity such as bike riding or hiking.

In addition, think about how you can duplicate some of the hospitality that is common to the holiday season during the rest of the year. As a business owner, what about having a company party in the spring? Or a picnic in the summer?

With your extended family, a group of friends, or your church acquaintances, what about getting a group together during the winter or in the spring?

My point is that if we were to apply even a small amount of the effort we make during this time of year to other times of the year, we could enrich our lives and the lives of others. If we are able to plan events throughout the year that get us in contact with the people we know, we will begin to reap the reward of stronger relationships and ultimately close friendships.

Deep down, most of us yearn for more close friends. My challenge to you for 2016 is to commit to doing what you can to initiate more frequent contact with the people you know. Make it your goal to develop several new close friends (or reclaimed friendships) by the end of 2016. If you are able to do this, you will look back on 2016 as a very, very good year.