Long ago and far away, a California girl moved to the Missouri Ozarks with her parents. To say that it was traumatic would be a tragic understatement. She knew no one and had no siblings. Her parents both worked outside the home while farming in the evenings when they came home. It took all their time.
This girl was already considered weird because of her tendency to make up stories, write poetry, and keep to herself while the Missouri kids played baseball at school recess. She could neither throw a ball in the right direction or hit a ball with a bat–even the recess equipment was different from anything she had ever used. More likely to trip over her own feet than to play in sports, the newcomer from California withdrew more completely into her shell. Living far out on a farm isolated her even more from possible friendships.
The classes in this new school were small, however, much smaller than the classes she’d been accustomed to in California. Despite her shyness, some of the braver classmates began to speak to her, talk to her on the school bus, even teach her to dance and hang out with her. To her surprise, some became closer to her than any siblings she could ever have had. They overlooked her tendency to blurt out inappropriate responses to their teacher in class.
It took a few years, as it always does in a small community, for this girl to become accepted as part of the class. In fact, it wasn’t until their first reunion ten years after graduation that she felt as if everyone accepted her. As adults, these people welcomed her and included her in their conversations. They enjoyed the first couple of reunions so much they decided to have one every five years. The reunions continued until one day, one of the women suggested the rest of the women all get together for a pajama party.
Eleven years ago, five women out of a class of 40 got together for their first pajama party at a local resort. Last weekend, for the 11th year in a row, these same women had another pajama party, and this one lonely girl from California flew 850 miles to spend time with people who had become lifelong friends. They stayed inside a beautiful suite on the lake near Branson, MO, and talked, shared their lives, laughed until they…well, they laughed hard and long. They tried to play pool, they brought five times more food than they could possibly eat, and cried when they all had to say goodbye.
Bonds of friendship can be formed at any time of life, but as that lonely girl who never quite fit in, I believe older friendships can be stronger due to experiences shared and characters developed. Personalities can bond people for a time, but personality doesn’t prove character. Shared interests can keep people coming together. But real, down-deep character, which shows itself through the years and leaves in its wake the shape of the true person beneath the personality–I believe that serves to form the most lasting of friendships.
During this week of Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for friends who are far away in distance, but close to my heart forever. I hope you can be thankful for friends in your life, as well.