Maybe I’m Not Too Old to Make New Friends

I’m not a very good friend.

I care deeply about the people in my life and want to stay close with them. But maintaining friendships takes work, and I’ve been lazy. The friendships I do have are largely thanks to the other person making the effort.

As part of My Instruction Manual, I’ve been thinking about the people who are important to me, and I’m slowly starting to put in the required work.

But what about making new friends?

I read in Gretchen Rubin‘s The Happiness Project (my review here) that one of her happiness resolutions was to make three new friends in a month.

THREE new friends? In a MONTH?

Nothing she tried in her year of happiness experiments seemed more daunting to me than the idea of making new friends. If I couldn’t be bothered to maintain existing friendships, how could I even consider making new friends? To be honest, by the time I reached my forties, I felt like I was too old to make friends.

Then one evening in May, my wife Laura, my son Bryson and I met a new neighbors who had moved in around the corner. They were from Mexico, but had most recently lived in the United States. They were friendly and their daughters were roughly the same age as our sons.

“We should be try to be friends with them,” I said to Laura as we walked home.

But how?

I came up with a plan to drop by with some kind of welcome gift. It seemed like the right thing to do, but the whole idea felt very unnatural to me.

So I asked Facebook. On a scale of 1 to 10, how weird was it to bring new neighbors a welcome gift of food?

I got about 20 replies. Here are some of the answers:

Our neighbours did this and we were sooo thankful! Not weird at all. Just make it something easy for them to make in case they haven’t unpacked all of their cooking supplies.

…and…

I say 1 totally normal and I would have loved it when we moved into the neighborhood a few years ago.

…and…

I think good. We felt welcomed when my old neighbor just popped by to welcome us when we moved in. It’s hard to move, but good to know when you have helpful and kind neighbors!

Nobody else seemed to think this was weird. So why did this feel so uncomfortable to me? I know I would think it was friendly, and not weird at all, if somebody brought me a welcome gift if I moved to a new neighborhood.

I knew I had to get over myself, so the next day I picked up a small cake from a neighborhood bakery and wrote out a welcome card. For the delivery, I brought my thirteen-year-old son Connor who is the extrovert of the family and can be very charming.

As we walked, I was struck with a memory from my childhood. When I was about nine years old, I biked to the corner store and bought a jar of candy labeled “be mine.” Then I biked over to the house of a girl I had a crush on, and with my heart beating out of my chest, knocked on the front door and asked for her. I’m not sure I even said anything when she arrived at the door, but I thrust the present at her, still enclosed in a wrinkled brown paper bag. When I arrived at school the next morning, she came over to my desk and returned the candy, telling me politely that she could not accept the gift.

Was it a fear of rejection that was making this task, 35 years later, so uncomfortable?

“Are you nervous, Dad? You seem nervous,” Connor said to me as we approached the house.

We knocked on the door and waited. But nobody was home. We walked home and put the cake and card back into the fridge.

When we returned later, the husband, who I had not yet met, was home alone. He was friendly and seemed to really appreciate this small gesture. He gave me his business card and suggested getting our families together for Mexican food once his family had settled.

The next day, his wife dropped by our house with two of her daughters. She thanked me for the cake handed me a thank you card with their contact information. The front of the card showed a hot air balloon floating over a city at night with the inscription, “You bring happiness wherever you go.”

Whether we become friends or not, I’m proud that I pushed myself to do something that made me feel uncomfortable. It’s a reminder that we’re never too old to make new friends.  More importantly, we’re never too old to grow.


A note about tomorrow’s blog. I mentioned yesterday that I’m working on a book about my experience with kidney disease and my transplant. Tomorrow, I’m going to share an excerpt of the book, which will be released later this summer.

 

4 comments

  1. Keith! This is a great post. Although I was one to “give” advice on this topic, I still get SO nervous in these situations. Our neighbours recently had a baby and I wanted to get them a gift. I was stressing about what to get them (since I don’t have kids and don’t really know what they need)! I finally decided to just get them a bottle of my favourite Rose wine (with a nice card) to celebrate their baby girl. I still have to give it to them (I’ve been avoiding this) but your post inspired me to finally drop it off after work today!

    • Thanks for sharing that Caitlin. It’s always nice to know that other people share our fears. Did you drop off the wine? How did it go?

  2. Our neighbours have become great friends and life savers when we were struggling with a colicky baby. They sent food and checked in to see if were staying sane and brought over bouncy chairs late at night when the baby would. not. stop. crying. I am so grateful to have them as close pals and just sent them a note to tell them so after reading some of your other posts! Good to get that gratitude off the journal pages and tell the people you love and value how you feel. 🙂 Look at that – you are spreading happiness around!

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