Invitation to Friendship

It was the third big move in my friend Susan’s life. This time she was in her 50s and the sense of necessity and adventure with previous moves had faded. She was tired, just tired, and lonely. So she signed up for a graphology (handwriting analysis) class, something she’d been curious about for a while. As she learned about the meanings behind writing the letter “t” with a low or high cross-bar or letters with a wide or narrow loop, she and the classmate sitting beside her noticed their writing was eerily similar. No coincidence, or maybe so, they realized they’d gone to the same high school some 7,000 km away, 35 years earlier and were a year apart.

They’ve been friends ever since, 30 years now, and lived through celebrations and losses together. That is how one friendship was born.

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Becoming friends is a simple process that appears to involve four steps.

  1. Sharing - an interest, idea, or refreshments.
  2. Inviting - one person invites the other person out, over, in. (And then the other hopefully shows up and reciprocates.)
  3. Showing appreciation and respect towards each other.
  4. Connecting over time - in hours, days, weeks and years.

There are cultural and subcultural differences, mostly when it comes to the invitation. When we invite someone it usually includes some kind of refreshment: coffee or tea, a pint of beer or glass of wine, ice cream or gelato, a smoke or a toke. Depending on the culture and the climate, the refreshment changes. The rest that follows is quite the same, human exchanges and interchanges that, over time, develop into friendship.

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Twenty years ago, a couple of friends and I visited Jerusalem’s Arab Quarter. It was on a warm afternoon in June, the stones of the ancient city radiating heat and inviting us into the cool refuge of the charming shops. As we browsed among the pouffe seats, wall hangings and finjan coffee sets, the shopkeeper invited us for coffee. Arabic coffee. Being avid java lovers, we appreciatively accepted. This kind gentleman brought us each a beautiful cup of arabic coffee, arguably one of the best cups of the strong, sweet coffee, probably prepared in a finjan.

I remember it today some 20 years later, as though it was yesterday. This act of generosity, hospitality and warmth imprinted within me.

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Invitations are a request for our presence, participation and company. They’re an act of welcoming us into someone’s life. They are the opening, the beginning, of possibility - to create a new friendship, romance, partnership, relationship or connection. Someone, perhaps you, is readying themselves to be vulnerable in a new friendship.

When is a time that you invited someone or were invited by someone? When have you been bold in extending an invitation?  Is there a story of friendship that stands out for you?