The many facets of friendship

January 9, 2022

Have we ever wondered what goes into the selection of another human being as a friend? There are so many components of what appears on the surface to be a rather simple occurrence. Simple at least when the friendship starts and develops at an early age, let’s say the elementary school years. We can hardly recall what may have attracted us to that special other person as we shared a Frito at snack time. And moreover, what may have caused a mutual reaction during recess in the third or fourth grade, but something did. What becomes more amazing is that the association has remained for the many years that each has been alive.

Distance does not seem to be a barrier or a deterrent regarding those types of friendships. Ironically, though, there are not a plethora of these types of friendships, due to changes in geographics. Parents move, and we move with them, leaving that popsicle-sharing individual who lived next door, or a floor or two below, in place. Needless to say, such worked both ways. Certainly, one can recall the pain and sorrow when such occurred, usually in the early teen years. It was our first experience with loss. This was my best friend, now physically gone. I suspect that in the current era, there is little to no problem in maintaining and sustaining the friendship, given those handheld electronic devices we use to perpetually communicate. But not that long ago, when our friend moved, we had to be sure to obtain the new address, if s/he even knew what it was, and then, remember this, actually write (using articles like paper and ballpoint pen or even a pencil) to write a letter, put it in an envelope, and place a postage stamp in the upper right-hand corner. The friendship continues (perhaps)!

Making friends when one is older is nowhere near as easy, and such is a bit sad. We tend to think long and hard about forming such a union, for reasons beyond logic, usually. Acquaintanceships abound during our 20s and 30s, shuffling in and out of our lives as though each were a playing card in a deck. We keep some, discard others, and may even actually lose one or two. There is some exception to this for those who were privileged to attend college where many actual friendships were also formed and sustained. During those college dorm years, again there was a sharing of commodities (many of necessity) which bonded young humans one to the other. However, for many of us, the process of becoming true friends is quite difficult. Working from home and meeting on the Zoom thingy does not help. It appears that we are asking ourselves many more questions prior to committing to or even thinking about friendship, uppermost being, will this new potential candidate for friendship fit in with the cadre of friends I currently enjoy? But wait! How did I obtain my current friend (or even batch of friends) in the first place? There are several answers to that question, of course, but I have a sneaky suspicion that we have no definitive answer. Jennifer and Amanda, Eli and Martha, Jimmy and Cassie,  Sequan, Adrienne, and David just floated into our lives and magically remained there as friends. How do I fit any more? What criterion or criteria do I use to vet a newcomer? Are we in a “thanks, but no thanks” situation?

We well recognize that buried in the word and concept of friendship are such things as admiration, respect, love, tolerance. Those feelings were somehow easier to identify when we were 7 or 8 years of age, although we had no idea what those concepts were. Maybe that is the key to natural friendship – being ignorant of the obstacles. The barriers which present themselves, or so we believe, make friendship ever so difficult during our adult years. However, we do need to have a friend or two, and not necessarily from childhood. Somebody to whom we can turn for comfort or advice, someone who will respond without question to a personal crisis, a person upon whom we can depend no matter what the circumstances. Friendship, then, is a qualitative phenomenon, not a quantitative one.

Let us raise a glass of the best of champagnes to that wonderful world of friends, with the sincere hope that each of us has at least one.


  • Peter E. Carter is a former public school administrator who has served communities in three states as a principal, and district and county superintendent, for 35-plus years. He is a board member for Delaware Botanic Gardens and Cape Henlopen Educational Foundation, and the author of a dual autobiography, “A Black First…the Blackness Continues.”

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