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Building Friendship During a Pandemic

In the twenty-six years of The May Club, a group I started in 1995 to invite men to join me on adventure trips, I’ve learned one leading reality…men are lonely.

Abiding friendships are few to none in the lives of middle-aged men. These men are busy building careers and businesses, raising children and managing their marital relationship. These can be all consuming, but we are all in need of friendship outside of these circles.

Friends bring unique perspectives, shared experiences, help and encouragement in troubled times and someone to celebrate with in successes. It’s important to remember a rule of friendship from the ancient Roman senator, Cicero: only seek friendships with virtuous men or the friendship will not be a benefit to your life or theirs.

In my early twenties I wondered why I was never invited to go hiking, camping, road tripping, fishing or just to hang out. I soon learned; it was because very few people were doing these activities. So, I decided to go do them and invite people to join me. In doing so I’ve had the great privilege of building countless friendships with many friends who I now call brothers.

For the first time in our 26 years we had to cancel our five-day adventure trip due to shelter-in-place. I realized staying connected was more important than ever now that it will be many months before we are all able to gather together again.

Here are some simple things I’ve been practicing to stay connected with friends:

Just pick up the cell phone and call. Some people are great at carrying a conversation over the phone and for some it is like pulling teeth, but the willingness to initiate the call at all is the testament to friendship. Call to see how you friend is doing.

Text about simple things. Share a news story or video link about something of common interest. This may generate follow up texts or elevate into a call. Either way you are keeping up a type of shared experience.

If it works for you, meet for an outdoor activity. My friend Shannon and I met out at the lake to go kayaking one evening and did our best social distancing. We paddled and caught up on our families, work, etc. as we rowed around the lake. There is no reason to not be outdoors and active.

If your friend is a reader, or even if he is not, send a book you’ve enjoyed. There’s a little more time than normal at home and books are a great opportunity to learn or escape. Most men will not engage with a long book so send something short.

Don’t use “likes” on social media as an affirmation of connection. Make a comment on Messenger about a post that offers more detailed thoughts or reactions.

Friendships are built by intentional people. Your responsibility is to be the intentional person in your friendships. In doing so you fulfil a great commandment – the love of others.

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