Structure Sunday: The Structure of Friendship

Tonight I had dinner with a friend I have known since early high school, about 40 years ago. I love the the idea that we have been friends that long. I actually don’t like the idea of ever losing any of my friends, regardless of time or distance. And there has been a great deal of time and distance between me and most of my friends. Nonetheless, I think old friendships hold the world together. 

This friend took the initiative to keep in touch. We went to the same small high school and left there in 1977 and 1979 respectively.  Our high school was an intense, supportive and inspiring place, and as a group, we departed there meaning to do good in the world. He and I went off to separate colleges a continent away, and went about marrying, having kids, going to school, school, and more school. I became a physician and he became a researcher for the World Health Organization, among other things. 

After Facebook reunited many people, he decided it would be nice to visit. And so he did, especially since I live in eminently visit worthy place. Of course, truth is stranger than fiction, so during his visit, he naturally he fell right in love with my wonderful neighbor and returned later to stay many months with her. Eventually they parted ways as friends and he still visits to this day. 

So tonight I had my good neighbor and my old friend over for dinner since he is visiting. It was such a treat since I also invited my niece and nephew over as well so they could meet my old friend. For you see, my friend did go out and do good in the world, and I wanted to share it with these kids. 

He recently finished his residency in Anesthesia, as he decided later in life to become a doctor. At the end of his residency, the Ebola outbreak began, so he departed for Sierra Leone, one of the hardest hit areas, to help. He spent six weeks there, and at tonight’s table, he told us about all we wanted to know and more, from the percentages that lived, to the special suits he wore, to his American co-worker who contracted the disease and lived. I was so pleased that he could share all this, especially with the kids present. It not only tied us together, it tied us together with all the Ebola fighters, and even put us degrees closer to the Ebola patients themselves, and helped us understand their humanity in a near first hand way. Best of all, he told us about the preliminary announcement from about three weeks ago, that an effective Ebola vaccine is on the horizon. 

So as the night wore on, and the topic of Ebola played itself out, we realized that my nephew plans to travel to just the area of Italy where my old friends and my neighbor have visited: Venice. So I was the happy recipient of colorful descriptions of Venice. My nephew was given numerous recommendations about places to visit, things to do, and travel strategies to use. I got to listen to exuberant descriptions and enthralled questions about this place, which at this point, to me, is nearly mythical, yet now more real. 

So because of this long friendship, tonight, at my own table, I traveled from darkest Africa to brightest Venice. We were able to appreciate each far flung place as the real place that it is, and understand that hope blooms in both. We renewed bonds, and shared all this with the younger generation. 

Are your friendships in good shape ? They are so important to our collective well being, that I suggest having a look.