The blessings of good friends


Have you ever tried to categorize your friends? To group them according to how close you are to each other? And then make a count in each category?

That was the topic of a recent NPR broadcast I heard one day. Naturally, someone has done a study on just such a topic. It showed that the average person has 4.3 best friends, 5.6 great friends, 7.2 good friends, and 20.4 acquaintances.

Now, all of us who are blessed with friends know that we are closer to some than to others, even though backgrounds, interests, families, and careers may be basically the same. Sometimes it depends on the situation at the time. Even so, it seems to be a daunting task to define just who in one’s life is a best friend versus a merely good friend.

Does the length of time you’ve been friends with someone make a best friend? My oldest friends in my circle have a special place in my heart, in part because of our shared history. Some friends and acquaintances are just passing through, while others stay awhile.

That same study showed that age 21 is the prime time to meet a best friend. During my 21st summer I was on a camp staff, had many new experiences, and made many new friends. That’s when I realized that when one is living with others, sharing all your meals with those same people, and working toward common goals with them, friendships are forged quickly and often run deep. A few of those fellow staffers I still count as friends today all these years later.

Do you make a best friend if it’s your roommate? Or because you work together or made it through a tough class together? Is it your best friend because you are co-leaders of a Girl Scout troop together, or because you both warm seats on the bleachers for countless Little League baseball games? Those are the avenues to get acquainted in a way that could make a bridge to a best friend eventually. But it takes time to strengthen that bond, and maybe it lasts only as long as the baseball season.

At my stage of life, the idea of a best friend seems somehow out of step with me now. I am blessed by a circle of friends, all with talents that in turn have brightened my life, shown me that they really care, and have demonstrated to me what it means to be a real friend. They have inspired me, laughed with me, and cried with me. And they simply don’t fall Into a specific category.

Maybe the Washington Star had the right idea about it all in 1909 when it printed: “There are two classes of friends: those you need and those who need you.”