Once upon a time…I remember telling my boys bedtime stories (that I made up) that began in such a manner. Once upon a time is a phrase that just has an innocent ring to it. When we hear that expression, we anticipate a journey into the fantasy of story land. But such a saying can also have a serious connotation.
Once upon a time (in real life) the vast majority of the important relationships in my life were carried on with people that I saw face to face on a fairly regular basis. As a rule, I knew what was going in their life. I interacted with them in person. I observed firsthand what they were experiencing. I knew what was going in their life, because we were together a lot.
When I was in high school, I played tennis with a friend the day after his father was arrested. I helped another friend care for his elderly grandparents when his parents were gone for the weekend. I remember going to the hospital when I was in college to see a friend right after she experienced the loss of a baby. As a 19 year old, I didn’t feel real comfortable doing that, but I was there.
Those events took place once upon a time…I am living a very different reality today. I now have friends who live all over the world. We rely on facebook, email, and texting. One of these days I may even enter the world of skype. I work really hard at keeping up with old friends and new ones alike. Technology has opened doors I never dreamed would even be cracked. Childhood friendships have been renewed. New relationships have been forged as well.
In this new reality, I don’t see these individuals face to face with much frequency. An annual reunion or trip of some kind is the only opportunity to be in each other’s presence. Major life events can take place on their end and mine as well. We share some of those things, but perhaps we choose not to tell all. So much can happen in a short period of time. It is nearly impossible to be as aware of what is going with each other as we were once upon a time…
I am not complaining. Without technology my network of relationships would be far more limited. But I am continuing to learn how to help those friendships to grow and flourish without the privilege of consistent personal interaction. Here are a few things I am considering. This is NOT the final word. These are just things I am considering. If long distance friendships are to deepen, then I must…
• Ask open questions. Example: How are things going with your job?
• Be alert. A lot of people drop hints via facebook or in passing comments regarding what is going on in their life. Pay attention and follow up.
• Be consistent. Check on your friends on a regular basis. Technology allows us to do that effectively.
• Be interested. I try (key word is try) to communicate via email, facebook, or texting that I am interested in what is going on in the lives of friends.
• Schedule phone calls: It is a good practice to say: It sounds like we need to have a phone conversation.
Once upon a time I saw my close friends nearly everyday. But now I depend on an inbox or a beep on my phone. It is really not so bad, but it takes some creativity and commitment! Once upon a time there was no facebook….But I am thankful today that we have such resources.