Pursuing and Preserving Friendships in a Pandemic
“Siri, text Mom…” and I rattle off a stream of sentences. The phone blinks yellow green at me and beeps, before reading aloud my words. A mix of garbled and legitimate phrases echo up to me from where the phone sits, untouched, in the car cup holder. I laugh at one translation of my thoughts but tell the phone to send it anyway. Mom will laugh at this, knowing I’m driving.
Road signs pass, and my tires beat fuut fuut fuut fuut on frozen cracks in winter roads.
I wonder and wait. Do I send the next one?
How do you word friendship in blinking text to some friends you haven’t seen in months? How do we pursue and preserve friendships in the midst of a pandemic?
I’ve been pondering that these months. What does friendship look like in a pandemic? And while I know that friendships should be constant and solid, regardless of circumstances, nonetheless, I know that sometimes absence makes the heart grow forgetful. With all of us falling into different comfort levels and different beliefs about the pandemic, how do we keep friendships vibrant?
I don’t know about you. For me, friendships look like engrossing conversations, shared histories or newly-growing stories, unconditional care, and the desire to know each other’s hearts. My friends and I over the years have asked deep questions and peeled back our lives, wanting to ask intimate questions about ourselves, about life, and about each others’ lives. We have laughed and cried together.
And these friendships can be online or across tables; by email, by yellow lined paper letters, or in person. Whether from church, or college, or community, the friendships I’ve found have been priceless to me. Over endless cups of coffee and tea, over meals in each others’ homes, and catching up after years’ absences, we have smiled and picked up friendships as if the years never mattered.
Is it the same in a pandemic, I wonder?
I’m still figuring it out. Falling into the pandemic camp that is more comfortable with extra precautions, I am choosing to socially-distance still, to wear masks, to be cautious of being in people’s homes (except my Mom’s and sister’s), and to avoid scenarios where Covid masks will be removed. I realize that my choices might not be another person’s choices, but it’s where we have fallen as a family, wanting to be careful not to carry any infections to others by accident. As a caregiver of my seventy-year old Mom, seeing her twice a week and bringing her groceries, I am protective and cautious.
But how do we maintain friendships in this weird new time? As a words-girl, I find myself trying to write out the affection I have for my friends. My phone tink tink tinks with each letter I type, and my twelve year old son rolls his eyes.
“Mom, I’m trying to focus.”
“Sorry, bud, I’m just texting a friend.”
I tell them I miss them. I ask after their families and their jobs, and I tell them I can’t wait to have them over after the pandemic. It feels a long way off.
Gorgeous tall blue skies tower above bright snow. Frozen yellow sunshine tricks all who don’t know. The Arctic air contracts nasal passages and dries up my throat as I run to get the mail.
For you, with me here, from inside your screen and from your email, hello! From subzero Minnesota tundra today, I smile and think of you, my friend.
I am thankful for you. May God grow your friendships, and mine, in beautiful ways this week.
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Jennifer speaks often at MOPS/MomsNext groups, at the Set Apart conference, at churches, retreats, camps, home school co-ops and more. She loves getting to know people and making new friends.