This past month I celebrated my birthday by sharing a unique and wonderful experience with my eight oldest friends from Northwestern. I planned the trip with The Meeting House motto of Fun, Friendship & Community at its core and had anticipated the visit to the bucolic Blackberry Farm in rural Tennessee with the enthusiasm of a little girl. I was champing at the bit for long hikes and leisurely meals filled with storytelling, laughter, shared memories and lots of flowing rose. I was beyond thrilled to have a few days in a row to spend time together socially—listening, bonding, playing and revealing secrets that we had not told others over the years.
We bunked up like we did in our sorority days, three to a room, and for four days we were back to our old rhythms and riffs. It was a perfect set up for catching up and allowed each woman a chance to reconnect individually and together as a sisterhood.
In true Meeting House fashion, I selected activities that would require us to apply new perspectives to our old paradigms - especially those about southern ways. In between yoga, hiking, archery and clay pigeon shooting we managed to get to know many southerners and flip some of our preconceived notions on their head.
Throughout our time together, I felt the blessing of friendship so deep and sincere that my heart was both bursting and aching with joy. I was unprepared for the depth of our many magical moments—-how hearty and hard I could laugh with them still, how unveiled and honest we could all be with each other, how steadfast their support is when one of us struggles, how freeing it is to tinkle in the forest together and how marvelous it was that all these years later the dynamics of the group still worked like clockwork.
As the weekend came to a close, I flew out of Knoxville to take my 18-year-old son to USC for his college student orientation, I found myself marveling at how life had come full circle in 32 years. It was hard to believe that I was sending my son off to college at the exact same time I was re-living the bonds of college friendship all these years later at Blackberry Farm. The pairing of these two experiences was powerful and poignant. As I sat on the runway, LA bound, I realized that in addition to learning all about economics and entrepreneurship at the Marshall School of Business I had other hopes for my son that might just be more important....that he seeks and finds his version of my NU community at USC is one of those. That his college friendships hold up to the test of time is another one. That he meets students like him with strong emotional Intelligence - who are kind, caring, honest and supportive. That they offer him a safe space without judgment and opportunities for new perspectives.
My other big AHA moment was when I realized that in part, the strength and depth of my college relationships had unconsciously inspired me to start TMH almost 9 years ago. The importance of providing opportunities for friendship at the meeting house cannot be understated in a child’s trajectory and development. The success or failure on this front can be a game-changer for kids that will impact them throughout adulthood.
It is with this in mind, that I’ve asked each of my girlfriends to answer one question — what do you think makes a great friend ? I have included the responses below:
“A great friend is someone who really listens, someone who really cares, someone who roots for you when things are going well and comforts you when things are rough. A great friend is someone you can talk and talk with, covering all topics with honesty. A great friend is someone you can laugh with, cry with, play with or be silent with.” — Julie M
Great friends make life beautiful. They are there for you through good and bad, through highs and lows, and everything in between. “Great friends listen, respect, forgive, support, accept and love unconditionally. Great friends make us more aware, more honest, more grateful, and as a result we become better versions of ourselves”. — Lauren
“A great friend is someone who is 'happy for your happy', and there for you at your lowest moments when you think you want solitude, but they know better, and their company is so needed. Someone you can share your most intimate and private thoughts with and know theirs is no judgment, but genuine love and concern. Someone who will tell you things you might not want to hear, but you NEED to hear. True friendships stands and surpass the test of time. You can pick up right where you left off and find a safe and familiar place. For me, the sounds of friendship resonate in laughter and tears and then laughter again.” — Jennifer
“For me a great friend is someone who is honest and fun, someone who loves me exactly the way I am and exactly the way I’m not, and most importantly someone who cares about our friendship and takes the time to spend time together. Great friends are people who make life worth living! — Debby
“A great friend is someone who stands up for you and stands by you when you are at your best and at your worst. A great friend is your biggest cheerleader when you have lost your way. A great friend knows when you need a good laugh, an ear, a hug or chocolate chip cookies.” — Julie
“For me, a great friend tends to be mostly positive and optimistic, trustworthy, reliable and non-judgmental, someone with whom you genuinely want to share time with to enjoy life, talk about each other’s highs and lows and connect in a meaningful way that feels good for the soul. A great friend is someone who accepts you for who you are. Someone who accepts your apology when you have overstepped in one way or another and really forgives you. It’s someone you can belly laugh with and cry with. It’s someone that you don’t skip a beat with notwithstanding long periods of absence in each other’s lives.” — Lainie
"A true friend is someone you feel completely comfortable around. No matter what, you are loved unconditionally with your faults, mishegas and shortcomings. A true friend loves and listens to you, howls in laughter or sadness by your side, and embarks on the journey with you either in good or bad times. A true friend may not be there every day, but you know they are always a phone call or a hug away when you need it. You can reach out and know their loving embrace or ear to listen will always be there at your side. A true friend holds you up and knowing they are there brings meaning .and peace to your life and to theirs. Friendships are the secret of life. Cherish and value your friends and your life will always be full and abundant." — Patti
"For me, a great friend tends to be mostly positive and optimistic, trustworthy, reliable and non-judgmental, someone with whom you genuinely want to share time with to enjoy life, talk about each other’s highs and lows and connect in a meaningful way that feels good for the soul." — Donna