Old Friends

“Dr. Kent, so good to talk to you.  Thanks for taking my call.”  So began a conversation between Dr. Jeffrey Kent and Gretchen Kitchner, a student who was in his classes 30 years ago.  He was also her advisor.

“It’s great hearing your voice, Gretchen, after all of these years.  I hope you are doing well,” Kent responded.

I am, but I have a request.  Do you have contact information for Susie Hammond?  You may recall we were roommates throughout college.  But I’ve lost touch with her.”

Kent had always been good about keeping contact with former students, so he was able to give Gretchen both an email address and phone number.  After another 20 minutes of getting caught up, Kent and Gretchen promised to be better about staying in touch.

Several weeks later, Kent received the following email from Gretchen.

“I lied to you when we talked.  I wasn’t doing well.  I was going through a very tough time in my life.  Counseling wasn’t helping.  I was becoming afraid of what I might do to myself.  I needed someone who really knew me that I could talk to.  Susie and I shared everything when we were roommates.  I know that she was someone who I could turn to, but I just didn’t know how to find her.  Thanks so much for reconnecting us.”

“Susie and I spent a week together and I’m happy to say that I’m in a much better place today.  It’s amazing how someone who you knew when you were younger can help you understand yourself today.  I know longer fear for myself.  If you didn’t have her contact information, I don’t know if I would be here today.”

It often begins very casually.  We meet someone who becomes an important part of the rest of our lives.  These old friends take nurturing because they could be easily replaced by shiny new objects.  Old friends come in other forms.  It could be a worn-out hat that just lets ideas flow.  It could be a fountain pen you can turn to for just the right words, or it may be a raggedy recliner that provides incredible naps.  In a time of escape and abandon/reset, being old friends is even more important.

Many of us are probably like Gretchen.  We have lost track of friends from our past.  Life happens is the normal excuse.  But imagine what we lose when we no longer keep in touch with people who knew us when we were still developing as adults.  These old friends were a part of our journey to adulthood and they have insights about ourselves that we may have forgotten.  Just as Gretchen discovered, these old friends are someone we can really talk to.

We should think of old friends as much a part of our valuables as the items we keep in a lockbox.  You can’t make old friends.

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The song, “You Can’t Make Old Friends,” was originally performed by Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton, and conveys the precious journey of long-term friendships.  It is poignantly sad, as it also addresses the loss of old friends.

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