Don't be strangers

By  Nisheeta Menon, Youth Speak News
  • March 6, 2008

Have you ever told a friend or loved one to “stay in touch”? Cell phones, palm pilots, instant messaging, web cams — these gadgets are designed to bring us all a little closer to each other. Yet there are so many in our world who feel more alone with each passing day.

I recently took the trip of a lifetime, a trip back to India where I was born. I had not returned for 17 years, and for all this time I had wondered what it would be like to meet and get to know my family there. I certainly did not expect to grow so close to them in such a short time, but after spending time with my grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins I feel like I have discovered a part of myself I had never known. Now, the question my grandmother posed to me on the day that we left still lingers: “When will we meet again?”

I am troubled by this question because I find communication to be a challenge. I know that I have difficulty maintaining relationships with people who live five minutes away from me, let alone people who live on the other side of the world. As I left India, I found myself reluctant to believe that I could continue to feel as close to my relatives as I did when I was with them. Though we mutually agreed to “stay in touch” I feared that I would lose the family I had only just gained weeks earlier.

In my experience, “stay in touch” is a dangerous phrase. It is often misused, either by those who make the request without meaning it or those who receive the request and fail to follow through. Likewise, how many times do we say, “We should get together some time,” without ever making those plans concrete? These have become lukewarm phrases we have learned to say out of politeness or habit, with no real intention. How many times do we say “how are you?” while passing an acquaintance, without pausing to hear the reply?    

So often our relationships are put to the test by time, distance and conflict. When we neglect these bonds of friendship, we often find ourselves wondering what went wrong after some time. Therefore, we are challenged to remember that every friend, every smiling face, is a gift from God so that we know we are never truly alone. Sometimes we do not acknowledge this precious gift until we lose it.

Ultimately, the crucial ingredient for any relationship is the time spent on nurturing and caring for it. This cannot be replaced by the most technologically advanced gadget. The process of “staying in touch” must originate within the individuals involved.  There must be a willingness to reach out and an openness to be reached by others. 

Therefore, let this Lenten season be an opportunity to reflect on those family members and friends who have drifted out of your life. Particularly remember the elderly, the sick and anyone you might know who is perhaps in great need of YOUR friendship. Remember that those who need you today might be the ones YOU need tomorrow — for the Bible reminds us that “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).

(Menon, 20, studies Christianity and Culture at the University of St. Michael’s College in Toronto.)

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