Some people we just seem to ‘click’ with and they are worth their weight in gold, says Veronica Zundel

Last weekend was a special one. An old school friend of mine came to stay (that’s a junior school friend – we met at the age of seven and parted with much sadness at the age of nine, when her family moved away). We saw each other often during our teens, went on holidays together, volunteered together in our gap year, met a few times in our 20s, but then our contact dwindled to Christmas letters. I hadn’t seen her since before I got married, indeed since before her daughter’s birth – and her daughter is now 29 and a mother herself. We’d been saying in our letters for at least 20 years that “we must get together this year”. And finally, we did.

We were both apprehensive. Would we have anything in common, after all this time? Would we even like each other? We needn’t have worried. It took a while to ‘re-member’ our friendship, and the amount of conversation needed to catch up on 30 years was quite exhausting, but before long we were finishing each other’s sentences and thinking exactly the same thought at the same time. I’m not going to wait another 30 years, indeed I can’t imagine what took me so long. A true friend is a friend forever.

But what makes a friendship work? And what makes a ‘real’ friendship different from that pale imitation that is a Facebook ‘friend’? We all know people we loosely classify as ‘friends’ and yet like them best when our contact with them is spread very thinly; while other people, we would be perfectly happy to see all day, every day.

I suppose a lot of what makes true friendship is ‘being on the same wavelength’ – sharing interests and views, yes, but something more: finding in the other a kindred spirit, seeing through their eyes, knowing what they’ll think about particular things. Yet I’ve had friendships in my life with people who are hugely different from me, and yet from whom I’ve learned an enormous amount. (I’d actually count my husband in that category – we have almost nothing in common except 25 years of married life, but somehow our relationship keeps going.)

My school friend and I are certainly on the same wavelength, although our lives have turned out quite differently. She is the country mouse and I’m the town mouse, but we’re both the same breed of mouse. There’s something in our way of looking at the world, in our values and what we hold dear, that just fits. So, do friends have to believe the same things and have the same principles? Not necessarily. I’ve had a good friendship with someone whose voting habits are diametrically opposed to mine ...

In the end, I think it’s something indefinable that draws us to certain people. I remember in my son’s last year of primary school, in a school he’d only just joined, I was keen to make friends with some parents. I saw a mother at reception and inexplicably thought, “I think I could be friends with this woman”. It turned out that she was Albanian, with very poor English at the time, but our sons had birthdays a day apart, she was a passionate lover of Jesus, and we both had experienced the suicide of a brother. And we became friends. How could I work out any of that from just looking at her? I couldn’t, of course, but I’ve had enough experiences of this sort to believe that there’s something at work which is way beyond our comprehension, that attracts us to people for a reason we can only discover when we’ve got to know them.

Is it telepathy, or clairvoyance? Or is it the Holy Spirit? “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” said Hamlet. Perhaps we do not choose our friends, but they are chosen for us, for our growth and sanctification as well as for our relaxation and pleasure. Jesus had ‘special’ friends amongst his disciples: Martha, Mary and Lazarus, or the “beloved disciple” John. When he met the rich, young ruler, he “looked at him and loved him”. Some people, we just click with. But he also counted among those he called friends, the deceiver Judas who was going to shop him to the authorities. And that too was necessary, for him to undergo the Cross.

So whether a friend is just virtual, or someone we feel obliged to support, or a person who makes us feel complete, let’s value our friends and give our whole-hearted presence to them. You never know when you may need one.
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