Sunday, August 3rd, was National Friendship Day. I suspect it’ll come as no surprise to learn that Hallmark Cards established the holiday – back in 1919! Enthusiasm for the day waned and by the start of WWII it had faded away. Then, in 1998, the United Nations named Winnie The Pooh the world’s “Ambassador of Friendship” and so Friendship Day was revived.
Last week I had considered writing a column on “friendship” but thought – what could I say in 450 words that Winnie The Pooh hasn’t already said?!
Then I came across an article by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, in which he writes: “According to estimates by University of Chicago psychology professor John T. Cacioppo, PhD, coauthor of Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, at any given time at least one in five people, or roughly 60 million Americans, suffers from loneliness. By this I mean both the acute bouts of melancholy we all feel from time to time, as well as a chronic lack of intimacy — a yearning for someone to truly know you, get you, see you.”
Refusing to believe the statistic – 60 million lonely people – I dismissed the article. But then it came back to bite me in an unexpected way!
Last week, Madge, a friend of mine, had surgery. I hadn’t seen her in a while and wanted to visit before the operation. I said I’d pop in on Tuesday. Well, things got busy and I couldn’t make it, so I assured her that I’d stop by the next day (surgery was slated for Thursday). Wednesday was just as hectic BUT I knew I had to visit Madge. On the way to the hospital I realized I was feeling – annoyed? Anxious? I felt out of sorts that I had to squeeze in a hospital visit on top of everything else I had to do. I was embarrassed. How could I feel this way since Madge was a friend?
It was a great visit and within minutes I’d forgotten all the “stuff” I was worried about. Later, I thought on that “60 million lonely people” statistic. The simple truth is that many of us are lonely because many of us have forgotten what it is to prioritize “friendship.”
This past week I realized that maybe National Friendship Day is actually any day we stop the nonsense of saying “I’m too busy” and simply “find” or “make” time to mindfully luxuriate in the company of a friend.
And at the risk of being totally schmaltzy, I’ll let Winnie the Pooh have the final word: “You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”
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