A few proverbs or phrases from my childhood have stayed with me over the years. One came from a simple black and white handcrafted needlepoint that my mother had hanging in our hallway (it now hangs in my home office). It reads: "Let Me Live in the House by the Side of the Road and Be a Friend to Man.”
As a kid, I thought this was a rather strange idea, but the older I get the more it resonates. What could be more honorable, more giving, and more important than just living by the side of the road and being a friend to whoever passes by? Offering a place to stay, or a cool drink, or a listening ear? The individual who originally wrote the words (I later found out they were penned by a poet named Sam Walter Foss) that inspired this needlepoint didn’t say, “Let me live in a mansion on top of a hill and make scads of money.” Or, “Let me rise to the top of my profession and be known all over the world.” Or even, “Let me achieve great success.” Nope, the idea is to simply be a friend to man. I can’t think of a worthier goal. (It could be updated, of course, to mankind, womankind, or as my son once suggested, to "the man.")
Along those lines, there was a motto/phrase/song we used to say and sing in Girl Scouts (yes, this is going back a ways). They probably still sing it (those of you with little girls can let me know). It was simply “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold.”
I always liked this saying, but again, as I grow older it means more and more. We meet so many people in life, and new faces come and go. Of course, some new faces stay, and we are blessed when we come upon a new friend, a new person to learn from and with whom to create new experiences. New friends are like bright, shining stars in our lives.
But I have a lot of old friends, too (and sorry, old buddies, but some of you are really getting up there). Sometimes, I realize, I’m so busy with the new friends I’ve met in recent years at the various activities I’ve become involved in, that the old friends get a bit neglected. Sometimes I forget to call. My dance card gets full. My in-box is laden with important emails from all my new contacts. My Facebook page is evolving.
And then I remember my Girl Scout days: "Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold." That’s when I give a call to my trio of longtime friends, Francine, Barb, and Pan. That’s when I dial up my sister (who is my very dear friend as well as my sibling), or my beloved niece, or re-connect with the women in my (sadly now defunct) writer’s group, or make an effort to have lunch with a mom I saw every day when our kids were growing up together.
New friends are miraculous, silvery, shimmering gifts from the universe. But old friends, my friends, are forever, and should never, ever be ignored, taken for granted, or forgotten. In this, for sure, the Girl Scouts were spot on. And though I don't like to preach, sometimes I need a reminder, and maybe you do, too.