Why can’t we be friends?

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. He has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

by Father Mark Goldasich

Have we forgotten how to make friends?

This simple question is answered in a delightful and unique way on the British website Be More Us. There, a two-and-a-half minute video — just google Be More Us and you’ll find it — opens with several people in a London coffee shop, each absorbed in their smartphone or simply staring blankly into space. All are by themselves. It’s a typical scene played out every day around us.

Suddenly, four “experts” invade the space. All are energetic, curious, giggly young kids. (And you’ll love their accents!) Immediately, each one chooses an individual and dares to invade their personal space by saying hello. The initial reaction of the “victims” is priceless. They try to give the kids the brush off, but the experts are having none of it.

After introducing herself, one little girl boldly asks her “victim,” a retired woman from Jamaica, if she’s “shy or something.” Once she has the woman’s attention, she plunges in with the question no polite person would ever ask: “How much money do you have?”

Not to be outdone, another little girl asks her elderly gentleman victim: “Why is your hair white?” And a little boy asks his young adult victim: “Why are you wearing a hat?”

As each person answers these wonderfully precocious and persistent kids, walls of isolation are broken down and connections are made. Soon, these new friends are laughing, sharing a coffee and giving one another hugs.

When one of the kids asks, “Why can’t everybody be friends?” the adults start up with excuses like: “Well, it would be a bit strange to just talk to a stranger” or “It’s not that easy.”

The experts disagree. One girl replies, “It’s kind of boring having tea or coffee by yourself.” Another girl insists, “I think everyone should talk to everybody.” The third girl asserts, “Making friends is easier than eating chocolate!”

The video is part of a campaign to end loneliness. In our world, so often marked by rancor, division, and crippling isolation, these children remind us that there’s a better way. They’re living out what’s said in the Book of Isaiah: “And a little child shall lead them” (11:6).

The video ends with this question: Remember when making friends was child’s play? It goes on to suggest some ways to reconnect with others, ways so simple even a child can do them:

• Get involved in your community. Get to know the names of your neighbors or fellow parishioners.

• Start a conversation with a stranger.

• Phone a friend you’ve not spoken to in a while.

• Go out for coffee or a meal with someone.

• Go for a day without checking your smartphone; connect in real life instead.

• Try something new. Join a group that shares this passion.

• Make friends with people of all ages.

• Volunteer somewhere.

As I wrote here several months ago, I’ve been bowling on my parish’s Knights of Columbus team in Lawrence. It’s a mixed league, men and women, and we might be the only “all Catholic” team. Each week, we face a new team and it’s a rare night when they don’t say to us, “It was really nice to bowl you guys.” The reason is simple: We’re lousy.

No, just kidding! The real reason is that we’re not so much bowling “against” the other team as “with” them. In other words, we talk to our “opponents,” congratulate them on a well-thrown ball and commiserate when the pins don’t fall the right way. And they do the same with us. That not only makes for an enjoyable evening, it leaves us with new friends.

This month of February is a wonderful time to reach out in love to others. An easy, nonthreatening way to do that is with some Valentine’s Day cards. They have plenty of “non-mushy” ones to send to friends, people who have positively influenced you or maybe to a lonely fellow parishioner.

But, honestly, what’s the best reason to make friends? Well, Jesus said it best: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20).

Hey, you can’t beat that!

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