Monday, February 16, 2009

Friends are the Best Medicine

I haven’t been home much so far this year. Instead I’ve been hundreds of miles away. As the family registered nurse, I spent three weeks helping my parents in Monmouth. Thankfully, a recent health crisis for my mother was resolved, and both of my folks are doing much better now. It has been a stressful start to 2009 to be sure. An absolute blessing to myself and my parents over the past weeks have been the visits from my dear friend Janet Kesinger Cohn, pictured below in her pre-school classroom in Monmouth. Janet has been my friend since we were 4-year-olds attending Kindergarten at the old Willitt’s elementary school on West Broadway. Our friendship endured even after high school. Long after I left Illinois to join the Army, we remained connected via letters (most of which Janet has kept all these years!) These days email keeps us in touch on a regular basis—unless of course I’m up at my folks’ place—then we are sure to get together for supper, conversation and occasionally browsing at antique stores.

There are only a few people who can light up the room like Janet. Her personality is bubbly and delightful, and she is genuine in every way. Her smile is contagious. She made both my folks feel better as soon as she entered the house. The laughter and pleasant conversation that Janet brought with her to my parents' home reminded me of Proverbs 17:22: "A cheerful heart is good medicine . . . " Janet is a person who thinks first of “everyone” else with a generosity of spirit that is unmatched. I appreciate all that she does, trust her with my deepest secrets, and simply love her. (Thank you, Janet, for being there for me and my folks! And a special thanks for helping me clean and sort the items in the pink bedroom for all those hours—that was fun, wasn’t it?)

There is plenty of evidence that supports the link between friendship and good health (both physical and emotional health.) A cancer doctor from the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Edward Creagan, has written about the power of friendship in healing. Our beloved pets are certainly count among our friends and their ability to improve our health and quality of life has been validated by a number of scientific studies. It’s been suggested that friends actually boost our immune systems, helping us resist illness and/or bounce back more quickly when we are ill.

Bottom line: a friendly relationship with another soul can lower our blood pressure, keep our appetite in check, motive us, and decrease the incidence of depression. Here are suggestions for a successful friendship adapted from this article:

1. Spend time together. Even cyber-friends can spend time chatting
via email or instant messaging.

2. Make friends a priority. As a bride I failed to appreciate the importance for my spouse and I to maintain one-on-one friendships with our old buddies. With maturity I recognized that those old friends enhance, rather than take away from, the marital relationship. Every important relationship in our lives must be nurtured in order to survive and thrive.
3. Be there for the good and bad. Need I say more? Our real friends are there to support us during the sad times as well as celebrate with us when we have good news.
4. Don’t keep score. Friendship is not a competition, yet there are some people who feel the need for an absolute quid pro quo . . . spontaneity is lost and so is fun when the logistics of a friendship supersede the pleasure of one another’s company.
5. Notice the little stuff. Here’s a precious example: When your friend has trouble putting her shoes on—placing a shoe horn by the front door is a thoughtful gesture. Take that thought and run with it—be creative . . . !
6. Focus on the positive. While reminiscing about the good old days when we were young, I reminded my friend Janet how popular and social she always was. She gave me credit for giving her confidence back then—although I remember it just the other way around! We all have our strengths and weaknesses and most of the time we know exactly what they are. Because we are usually our own worst critic, we don’t need negative vibes from our friends. That’s a sure way to mess up any kind of relationship, as we’ve no doubt all experienced first hand at various times in our lives.

I hope to get back to blogging on a regular basis soon. Best wishes to all of my friends.

1 comment:

Janet said...

I often tell our children struggling to get along or those feeling alone, to have a friend, is to be a friend.

Thanks Carolyn for being such a great friend! I appreciate you always being there for me! I'm so thankful we have kept in touch all these years. You are awesome!

Your friend,