This week Meta and I spent some time in Durham, NC where we visited some old friends. We had dinner with two different couples on successive nights, went to church on Sunday at St. Luke’s, and on our final night in the Research Triangle area Meta and I dined together at one of our favorite restaurants in Chapel Hill.
In this first month of sabbatical I am continuing to visit friends and family whom I do not see as often as I would like. In the process I have revisited places where I previously have lived and studied, or both. This time of traveling in the first month of my sabbatical has brought back memories, particularly as I note what has changed and what has remained much the same.
Meta and I raised our two boys in Durham, NC and Narberth, PA. They were two and four years old when we moved to Durham and ten to fourteen when we moved away to Pennsylvania. We had many friends in Durham not only from our work, church, and school but also because we met the parents of our children’s friends and became friends with them. It’s a bit more difficult to make friends when you don’t have your children around to introduce you to folks you might never meet were it not for them. Our lives were enriched by the friends we made in those years.
One of our friends there is in the last stages of a terminal illness. It was good to visit with him and his family, as this may be the last time I will see him. On this visit I also spent some time reconnecting with Mike, my colleague, classmate, and friend from Graduate School. Meta had a chance to have lunch with one of her old nursing colleagues and friends. While on the Duke Campus where I worked for a few hours in the library (surrounded by new construction projects) I ran into a few faculty members I knew.
We have not been entirely out of touch with our friends in North Carolina. We see them on and off every few years when one of us passes through town in either direction. Last summer we attended the wedding of one of the children and on this visit we saw a few of our friends’ children, some married, in the early stages of their life after college. As life gets busier and busier, we often find ourselves out of touch with those who meant so much to us in years past. It’s not that they don’t mean as much to us now, it’s just that we all are busy getting on. And we all know how much time it takes just to do that.
Meta and I have found that if we want to see our friends, then we have to make time ourselves to do it. If your friends mean that much to you, sometimes you just have to go find them. If you are thinking of them, it’s probably a good time to make contact with them again.
There are two wonderful sayings about friends in the book of Ecclesiaticus (Sirach) in the Apocrypha. The first is: “Wine and music gladden the heart, but the love of friends is better than either” (Sirach 40:20). What more can I say than that? That says it all!
The second saying is this: Do not abandon old friends, for new ones cannot equal them. A new friend is like new wine; when it has aged, you can drink it with pleasure (Sirach 9:10).
Old friends and new friends are equally wonderful. When we meet a friend we have known for years, however, we resume at a different place than where we would with a new friend. On this trip, our conversations seemed to pick up just where we left off. We had already built the foundation; now we were continuing to enrich our friendships in new ways.