When my parents had been married for 45 years, my sisters and I planned a surprise party. We decided it would be easier to surprise them at year 45 than year 50, when a party might be more expected. Keeping it a surprise was just one of the challenges. Another major challenge was the guest list. How would we go about creating a guest list for a couple’s 45 years of life together?
My parents are community-minded, not in the sense of obligation and duties to the community but in terms of investment into friendships. They’ve established and maintained many friends over the years, and we didn’t want to leave anyone out. We wanted them to be surrounded by the people they’d invite if they were creating the guest list – but we couldn’t ask their opinions.
My parents grew up in a small farming community in central Illinois. They built relationships because people in the community relied on each other. They trusted each other, watched out for each other, helped each other. They worked fields side-by-side, lent and borrowed equipment, and lived through trials and tragedies together.
I suppose some people might be able to choose to be reclusive among the community, but it would be a challenge. Plus, my parents aren’t reclusive people. My dad doesn’t know a stranger, and since my parents are best friends, my mom doesn’t have much of an option!
So, we put together the guest list (and only left out a couple people, who graciously understood) as well as the rest of the details. It was a wonderful party. They were (mostly) surprised particularly thrilled to see so many friends from their decades together. They hadn’t seen some people in years. Others, they lived alongside daily. With each turn, as they looked around the room, they were greeted by another smiling face full of memories.
After the celebration had been going for a couple hours, a friend and I were talking. He and I had been friends since birth, because our parents were friends, as well as our grandparents. The family farms were only a couple miles from each other. We shared weddings, births and funerals.
Looking around at the multitude of friends, circles overlapping circles, my friend reflected, “You know the sad thing is, we – our generation – probably will not get to experience this when we’re our parents’ age. We’re too busy to make the depth and extent of friendships.”
I’m not saying it’s impossible. In fact, if anyone will have a 45th anniversary celebration with extensive circles of friends, it will be this particular friend, but I completely understand what he was saying. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we often skirt around and skim over the importance of long-term relationship-building.
Our relationships can use more intention and attention. Our relationships can be bumped up on the scale of priorities.
Let’s not downplay the benefits of quick, short-term relationships as we share a smile, help someone in a parking lot, or work with co-workers in a temporary job. However, who are you investing in, and who are you allowing – even inviting – to invest in you?
It’s not just about who you’ll call in the best and worst times of life. It’s about who you’ll call, drive to, sit with and sacrifice for during daily life.
Who are you doing life with?
Consider the people surrounding you.
Are you focused more on short-term benefits or long-term investment?
Are the people by your side going to be by your side in 10, 25, 50 years?
Sure, life changes. People move. Interests change.
Transitions are part of every person’s life.
But you might see life as so transitory that you’ve become comfortable in the transition instead of investing in the long-term possibilities.
Many people avoid investing money because they’re overwhelmed with the amount they’ll need. They can’t fathom such a sacrifice.
Are you doing the same with relationships?
Investing even the smallest amounts of money will accumulate into a growing investment.
Surely, you have time, energy and resources to invest in growing relationships.
Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11