I watched a new Christmas movie this year. It was titled “Christmas on the Bayou.” The movie told the experience of workaholic executive Katherine who takes her son back to her small Louisiana hometown to spend Christmas with her mother after many years and many advertising accounts.
Throughout the movie, she was bombarded with calls and texts and emails from the office in New York. Her boss and co-workers implored her to get back so she could work on the “big account.” Finally, she agreed to return on a Christmas Eve flight, much to the consternation of her mom and friends.
But in the intervening hours, with the help of her mom and some old high school friends, Katherine was able to figure out where her heart truly belongs.
Friends and family are such an important part of our lives. They are woven into the very fabric of who we, as individuals, are by their influence and example. They keep close to us in spite of our foibles.
The Mayo Clinic reports that good friends are good for your health. Friends can help you celebrate good times and provide support during bad times. Friends prevent loneliness and give you a chance to offer needed companionship, too. Friends also:
— Increase your sense of belonging and purpose
— Boost your happiness
— Reduce stress
— Improve your self-worth
— Help you cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one
— Encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise.
As Bernard Meltzer put it, “A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked.”
Even the usually narcissistic character of Dr. Sheldon Cooper from the television show “The Big Bang Theory” recognizes the importance of friendship. In one episode, he developed a friendship algorithm to follow in becoming friends with another character on the show.
Dr. Cooper had reduced the process of making friends to a shared meal and a “least objectionable activity.” The algorithm didn’t help much. It seems his total lack of social skills, a tenuous understanding of irony, sarcasm, and humor, and a general lack of humility or empathy got in the way. Friendship, it appears, is made up of social skills and humility and empathy.
My high school yearbook quoted Albert Camus, “Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” There is a humility and an empathy and a “connectedness” in walking beside.
During this time of year friendship, and the connectedness it offers, is underscored by several major cultural celebrations. Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, who called us to love our neighbors as ourselves and help others in the way we each would like to be helped. The Kwanzaa value of Ujima talks about helping to solve the problems of our brothers and sisters. The traditions of Hanukkah include the bravery and unity of the family, as well.
In my all-time favorite Christmas movie, Ebenezer Scrooge lost his connection to both his sister and to the woman he loved. With no true friends or family as peers, he lost his way, I think. His epiphany came, though, granted it was a little more dramatic than was Katherine’s, but it came, and he was able to “make merry” with his nephew and with Bob Cratchit, as well.
So in this season so founded on family and friendship, take time to share yourself with those who really want to know that you care. Don’t relegate it to a Twitter feed or a Facebook post. Make this meaningful. Make it face to face and person to person.
And be sure to cherish this moment, along with every moment. Cherish every moment with your friends and family. Even if you were to somehow know that you have a 1,000 years, cherish every moment you spend with a friends and family.
And don’t be afraid to take a long look in the bathroom mirror and make sure the person you see is the person you are expecting to see.
Hugh Gray is the executive director of Westview Behavioral Health Services in Newberry.