It’s not enough to reach out. It’s not enough to want, or to wish.
There’s a man in Norway who’s made a friend in Scotland. He’s in his 60’s; she is about that age too. Both their spouses have passed away.
These two people, the Norwegian and the Scot, are daily supports for each other. They’re good friends via Skype and email. She hosts him on his bi-annual trip to the UK. He performs some technical repairs for her farm; she gathers and holds items he enjoys collecting. Their introduction? The Scot had known the widower’s wife. And today, two people, from entirely different worlds, are friends.
Their friendship wasn’t created because they were both close to the same woman. Their joining is not out of regard or respect for the deceased wife. There is much more credit to their bond. They took a page from the young: They each found someone who was willing.
How nice it must be, to know that someone cares about your well-being.
How nice it must feel, to hear the phone ring or find a message waiting.
How good it is to give, when someone values what you’re offering.
How good, to be in someone’s thoughts.
To be greeted, acknowledged, smiled at.
Spoken to, with regard.
Have you noticed, and do you remember? Children tend to make friends easily, while older people sometimes find their friend count dwindle over time. This dynamic can be explained in simple terms: While older people may be interested in attracting new friends, kids focus on appeal.
Kids make themselves appealing by showing up at a friend’s house with a baseball and two gloves.
A kid will tell another he’s his best friend.
A kid will really care about who she sits next to in the cafeteria.
It’s too easy for an older person to be just fine eating alone. There are other contrasts too: Older people talk about when it would be a good time to get together, while children just show up and knock. The concept may be oversimplified but there is truth to it. In the context of companionship, seeking is passive.
Older adults can learn much from children. Kids won’t organize a class or refer their elders to textbooks. They won’t summarize in a Powerpoint what works for them. There’s no Brain Shark tutorial on their form of natural wellspring.
Adults can scale-up the child’s form of friendship, and for all ages, it boils down to this: I want your special kind of attention. There is room in my life for you. This wagon isn’t moving unless you’re in it. I’m not okay if you’re unhappy. I will look for you when I enter the room. I will miss you when you’re away. I’ll keep your words and thoughts in my heart.
Active people find the willing. Action isn’t physical mobility; it’s your desire to be open to another, and your commitment beyond your self. What comes naturally to the young can be learned by the old.
Ara Hagopian’s third book is out now: http://www.leavesofyouth.com