By Jessica Brodie
One of the best things about being a mom is the chance to see the world through the unique and innocent eyes of my children. It’s amazing to me how they view the world, whether it’s the simple beauties of nature to how our nation dialogues about politics. And one of the most rewarding of these fresh perspectives has been the way I have come to look at friendship—courtesy of my 9-year-old daughter, Avery.
Avery is a girl’s girl in the best sense of the term. She has one super-best friend and about 16 secondary best friends, all of whom she considers her sisters and whom she values chiefly for their kindness and sense of humor. But she also relies on these girls. When she’s had a rough day, they write her cheer-up notes or sketch colorful pictures of her dancing among butterflies and rainbows. Avery does the same for them—and for me. She counts me, too, among her “besties,” and she’s even decorated my office wall with handcrafted meme-like verbal graphics reminding me to “dream big, worry small” or “throw kindness around like confetti.” (One of my personal faves: “I am a girl, I am smart and I am strong. I can do anything!”)
I love people, don’t get me wrong. But as a shy, bookish girl who moved around a lot as a child, holding onto friendships over the years wasn’t my strong point. I enjoyed their company, but they passed in and out of my life, and I didn’t rely on them.
But by watching the way my daughter approaches friendship—with gratitude, reliance and an open heart—I’ve come to understand that I missed out on something important. Now I’m part of a small group at church, and for the first time I realize what it truly means to have real friends. Real friends hold you accountable. They celebrate your milestones and accomplishments; they cry and pray with you when your ups become downs. You do the same for them.
At the end of the day, we’re not alone. Through Christ, and through Christ’s agape love for us, we tap into the Holy Spirit when we experience authentic, vulnerable and generous friendship. As Jesus said in John 13:35, “Everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”
When my son was born, I experienced instant and utter love. Two years later, when I was pregnant with my daughter, I had a moment of panic. I remember thinking, “I love my son so much; how can I possibly love my second child anywhere near as much?” And then the miracle that is true love showed itself; when my daughter was born and I felt that exact same explosion of perfect love for her, too, I realized that love begets love. It’s a circle: The heart expands and grows. Our capacity for love grows. It’s not just love for our children but also our spouse, our family and our friends. Our hearts expand ever larger as our relationships deepen and mature.
And recently, I’ve been able to watch this exact same thing happen with strangers.
I was blessed with the opportunity to volunteer as part of the Sellers hurricane blitz Jan. 13-14 (see Page 1). It was hard work—hauling wood and moldy drywall to trash heaps, prying off heavy floors, carting away sopping wet carpeting—but fun, too. The camaraderie among the volunteers was strong, but what really touched me was witnessing the bonds between volunteer and homeowner. I myself had the opportunity to share tears of joy with two homeowners, listening to tales about their town and their childhood homes and the hope they have now, where before they’d felt forgotten.
Friendship is important. Relying on others is critical. Paul wrote in Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ,” and in 1 Corinthians 12:26, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”
We’re not in this alone. My 9-year-old daughter gets this—and taught me a valuable lesson. The people of Sellers get it.
I thank God I’m beginning to get it now, too.