After my mission, I didn’t take much time to stay abreast of the latest news. I would hear bits and pieces of the latest depredations of foreign countries, a lot about Donald Trump, and some mutterings about “those darn Democrats” from my parents. Without taking time to actually formulate a coherent position on any of these topics, I decided that the nations of the world should try harder to get along, that I don’t like Donald Trump, and that partisan politics isn’t for me.
But over the past two weeks—since the shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, really—I’ve noticed a common thread in the biggest headlines in the newspapers at work and in the news apps I recently added to my phone. The United States is in serious trouble: Our Union is disintegrating, whether you like it or not. And after giving it some thought, I’d like to offer what I think is the one thing our great nation, and indeed all of us as individuals, need the most.
Friendship. That’s right, everyone! The United States needs more friendships, within and without.
I’m not talking about merely being more civil with each other, or ending the destructive tribalism that currently wracks the land. Yes, it’d be great to solve those problems, but I fear we’re not being courageous and bold enough to halt the disaster that is looming over the world when we focus on these issues. We need to start going out of our way to make new friends, to nurture those relationships, and to serve them with true care and concern.
How many friends do you have? No, I don’t mean on Facebook, I mean actual friends, the kind of people that you share honesty, kindness, laughter, generosity, and loyalty with. The kind of relationships where you feel comfortable bearing your soul, and listening to them bear their souls in return.
What’s that you say? You don’t even have a relationship like that with your spouse?! Dear reader, I beg of you, make whatever changes are necessary in your life to start developing that kind of relationship with every person you meet. Don’t concern yourself if someone isn’t interested in being true friends with you, but open yourself to being true friends in the case that they are interested. And do whatever you can to pursue that friendship in every sector of your life—at home, at work, and everywhere between.
I believe that only by turning our country into a nation of friends can we conquer the overwhelming challenges of our day. While we squabble together and focus on fighting the other, we lose the opportunity to become, individually, emblematic of the American Ideal: E Pluribus Unum, Out of Many, One. We need to be unified, yes, but we can do even better. We can care for each other, love each other, desire the best for one another, and be friends with each other.
My challenge to you is to start by strengthening your relationships with your close family, then your extended family. Build strong bonds with your spouse, your children, and your parents. Then start to reach out, and seek opportunities to express care for your coworkers and others you interact with regularly. You needn’t be intrusive, but you can show them that you’ll be there when they need a shoulder to cry on.
Without friendship among Americans, the United States is doomed.