There was a period in my life when I had few friends. I was new in town, I couldn’t speak the local language perfectly, and I was away from my family. The first friendly stranger
had found me in the airport struggling with my big 3 heavy suitcases which indicated I was moving to a new town, at that time, those suitcases carried all off my earthly possessions. Among my clothes, were found an old pair of roller blades that I had planned to use as my way of transportation in the new town.
The friendly stranger saw my petite body and skinny muscles and perhaps he took pity on me and approached me with a smile asking if I needed help. I asked him in my broken English that I needed to go outside of the airport to find the bus stop that went to South Bend Indiana. He pulled my bags, took me there, and as I enter the bus he said in his broken Spanish:
“Vaya con Dios” which means “May God go with you”
I smile at him turning my face around, hiding my tears from him. I felt very lonely at the time, and for him to remind me God was with me was simply the right thing to do at the right time in my life.
Unknown to me at the time; in the following years I was about to meet the most extraordinary friends I could ever wish for, and at the end of my years in that town I was going to meet my true love and husband.
How did that happen? How did I meet friends?
I would like to answer these questions and give you 5 simple ideas you can implement in your life today to make true friends in a new town.
Step out there: In order for you to meet people, you need to find places were the people gathers, this can be clubs, a local organization, a church, or a football field. I remember the first time I arrived at one of these events. It was a local youth group that gathered every other weekend to have worship at sunset. I did not know anybody there and I was very nervous to go to the park and be there all by myself. But I went, and people were very friendly.
This first step always takes lots of courage, because as human beings we tend to be insecure and our need to be accepted is very important. Nevertheless if you don’t take that first very important step, most likely you won’t make friends.
Approach people: I went to this group gathering for about threes weekends, and I became familiar with the people who usually attended. On one of those weekends, I realized there was a new face in the group, who seem to not have local friends either. I approach her and we started a small chat and got acquainted with each other.
Many months later we were good friends and roommates. One day she told me:
“Fanny, remember that Friday that you approached me for the first time? Well, I was very nervous and you seem so friendly to me that you made me feel so welcomed.”
I smile at her: Well F. I was new myself!”
Be kind: Few moths later, I went to a stranger’s door just knowing her name and knowing she was new in the university and we were going to be classmates. I brought her a small gift and she was very happy to see someone actually knew her name. We had met briefly at the school and I had asked her for he apartment number. I was a little nervous my self and was hoping she would open the door for me. She did and stood by the door receiving my bag of tomatoes. The truth is that I was very poor and someone had been giving out tomatoes to poor students, so I took an extra bag for her as well. Years later I asked her:
“Why you never invited me inside your apartment that first time I went there?”
“I was so excited and nervous someone had actually knocked at my door that I did not know what to do!”
I would like to share with you the advice of an old writer who said:
“A man that hath friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24
Be willing to open up: On friendships I have not learned all on my own, the best experiences had been those taught to me by others. To develop depth and intimacy with new friends you need to be able to open your heart and be willing to share some of your weakest moments.
It was a rainy and cold day, when one of my new friends in this stage of my life, who is also a mother, came to my door wet and cold, crying and sharing some of her frustrations with me. She was trying to be a good mother and finishing her studies at the same time. These are challenging years for her, but when she was willing to share her burdens with me, something inside my heart open up to her, and suddenly I felt a little closer to her, because she had trusted in me.
Love always builds on trust. When we are able to trust others with our lives, and hearts, we are giving them the opportunity to know us for who we really are. We are also given ourselves the opportunity to know if they are willing to accept us, respect us and love us for who we are.
Learn to forgive: Relationships are always challenging. Investing in them takes sometimes takes hard work, it gets messy and sometimes complicated, is a lifelong investment that never ends and it keeps changing with time, but is so worth it.
Many times in life we make mistakes, and when it comes to relationships we need to remember we may be prone to hurt and be hurt by others, therefore the importance to practice forgiveness.
Mahatma Gandhi said once: “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong” and he is right, but sometimes when the pain is too strong to bear we need to take time aside, time to pray and we need to remember sometimes healing takes time, and it is o.k. to wait until our heart is ready. True love is willing to wait, to stop and reconsider, to negotiate and come to an agreement.
There are many other areas we could explore when it comes to finding true friends, but I hope these few were sufficient enough to step out and try to open your heart for these opportunities.
Remember that the kind of friends you had in high school or college not necessarily are the same type of friendships you will find in the years to come. For example; when you have young children and you hardly have time to take a shower, is really hard to make real friends, but you can do it, it takes more effort on your part and more scheduling, but is worth it. These friends are not the same when you are about to retired and you suddenly have more time in your hands. They are not the same when you reach old age and many of them start to die. Nevertheless friendship is always at the door, for those who are willing to try and to give some part of themselves to others.
Tel Ben-Shahar said it well when he wrote in his book Happier “Having people about whom we care and who care about us to share our lives with, to share the events and thought and feelings in our lives, intensifies our experience of meaning, consoles us in our pain, deepens our sense of delight in the world.”