Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Shared Joy is Double-Joy

Growing up, all my friends wanted the usual pets – dogs, cats, hamsters, horses. You know, the regular pet arsenal. Me? I wanted a chimp. Oh, did I want a chimpanzee. I had pictures of chimps on the walls of my room, I checked out library books and pored over chimp-related details, I even tried to dress as a chimp for Halloween once. Any time which seemed like the right time (but, in retrospect, clearly wasn’t), I nudged my parents about maybe bringing a chimp home to live with us. To my unending surprise, through all my pleading and well thought-out reasoning, they remained unmoved. Couldn’t they see what a great pet a chimp would make? Still, you had to give me points for my single-minded dedication to this cause.

It wasn’t until years later that my dream was realized. Well, sort of. My partner, Michael, endeared himself to me forever, when early on in our relationship, he displayed an inspired performance for me. Jumping wildly around the room and perfectly imitating the ooh-ooh-aah-aah of my favorite animal, he made me laugh until the tears flowed and won my heart like no other.

Recently, an issue of Science News magazine caught my eye because, you guessed it, the cover models were a couple of gorgeous chimps. The featured story was about the benefits of friendship.  It turns out that like humans, chimps that bond with each other are happier than those who don’t. Not only do they play, socialize and eat together, but they are also loyal to one another in times of need. And, further, those chimps that groom each other develop even stronger and closer bonds with one another.

This got me thinking about my friends and just how much I treasure and love them. And while I don’t groom my friends by removing bugs from their skin, I definitely do put considerable time and care into maintaining my friendships. I’m happy to do it, too. As the saying goes, shared joy is double-joy and shared sorrow is half-sorrow.

Some friendships go through rocky times, misunderstandings, or other sorts of trials. During these instances, it might be tempting to just let them go, or allow distance to creep in. In our disposable society, things that have lost their luster are often discarded for the new, the bright and shiny, the perfectly ordered. But people are infinitely more precious than things, and each of us carries within us a unique world that can never be replaced.

When my children have disagreements with friends, I remind them to think about all the good things that they bring to each other’s lives. Then I ask them if they are willing to have those good things go away because of some temporary situation. I also show them, through my own words and deeds, that friends are one of life’s greatest gifts. I honor my friends with kindness and generosity, with shared laughter and tears, and rarely, a good swift kick in the rear, figuratively speaking of course. After all, we aren’t perfect. Sometimes we need a healthy dose of reality and who better to deliver it than a loving friend?

We don’t get to pick the families we are born into. But we do have limitless choices when it comes to creating our bonds of friendship. Choose wisely. Give unconditionally. Love boundlessly. This is the joy in life.