Friendshifts: Keeping Close Through Life's Changes

EVERYONE NEEDS A FRIEND

Even if you are lucky enough to be raised in a very responsive and loving family, it is inevitable that you will someday leave home. But friends-old friends whom you have cultivated over the years or newer ones whom you develop in your new communities-will always be available to you for affirmation and companionship.

Friends can be a source of self-esteem, affection, and good times. In times of despair, friends offer hope: a class of youngsters in California in 1993 shaved their heads so their friend and classmate, who was undergoing treatments for cancer, would not feel self-conscious about his bald appearance. His dozen friends kept their heads shaved until they learned their friend's cancer was in remission.

Friendship. It's something many people take for granted. They are unaware how powerful and positive friendship can be, or they would take it more seriously. The right friends can help you feel worthwhile. The right friends can even help get you elected president. School, work, parenting, and even old age are better and more fun when shared with friends.

I asked 46 college students at St. John's University what factors must be present in a close friendship. Almost all agreed that trust and honesty (44 and 43, respectively) were paramount, followed by faithfulness, loyalty, and being a good listener  (35, 32, and 3 1), and, finally, having ideas in common and love (28 and 24). Just one wrote that attractiveness counted; only two felt age was a factor; only 10 considered intelligence, and only 8 deemed being a good talker of any significance.

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