In a recent post, I mentioned my year of graduate studies overseas. On a Rotary Foundation Scholarship, I attended the Australian Graduate School of Management at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. The year was 1985 and communications were not then what they are today. This was before fax machines were common, cell phones were virtually non-existent (though I did have a car phone back home), texting and email- what are they? Facebook – well, Mark Zuckerburg was only a year old. Telex machines were used for “instant” communications – messages often took 2 days to request and send. Australia is a long way from Florida – to state the obvious. Mail sent via air mail was relatively expensive, and took 5 to 7 days at least. Regular mail to the USA took 6 to 10 weeks. I have set the stage to say that it was difficult to communicate with friends and family at home. As described before, I communicated with those back home via a newsletter, as well as personalized, individual letters. What I wanted to write about in this post is the communication coming from the USA. Despite making my whereabouts known, quite a few of those I counted as friends were virtually silent during my year away. I so valued those true friends who took the time to write – it was my lifeline home. It wasn’t easy for them to send me air mail letters (in fact, it may have been easier for me to write/send them the letters I did because of the special air mail letters I could get from the Australian Post Office). I appreciated the efforts of those who wrote, and those who called, at much greater expense then than now, and the two friends who came to visit. Unfortunately, I became more distant towards those friends who did not make any effort. Some told me they thought about me while I was away – but they never let me know during that time I was so far from those I knew. Despite making new friends, and the adventures I had, the life long connections were very important and I felt cut off in some way. What prompts this post is to implore any whose family and friends move away, for any reason, to keep in touch. I’m thinking of our young friend who has joined the Army. Her career will take her far, I’m sure. It is easy these days to keep in touch; so keep these travelers in mind, and stay in touch. And, while a visit to a distant friend may take some planning and effort it should not be an insurmountable hurdle. Don’t let it be out of sight, out of mind. Time zones and miles mean little.
As long term readers of David’s and my posts know, we are the type of people who have lots of friends. Having lots of friends, old and new, requires effort. As my late Mother used to say, “To make a friend, you have to be a friend.” Being a friend includes standing by one’s friends in bad times, as well as having fun with them in good times. Being a friend also includes the simple act of staying in touch. Staying in touch is easy and staying in touch has gotten easier since the advent of cell telephones, email, texting, and of course, the ever present social media. These days, the only way to NOT stay in touch is to block someone on all one’s personal communications devices; over sharing is far more prevalent than “radio silence.” All of this being said, there are some people who sit back and wait for other people to initiate contact with them. Almost everyone I know believes they are the busiest person on the planet, but, of course, this notion is an impossibility if considered to its logical conclusion. I believe that, just as with most things in life, people have priorities and further, they make time for people and things high on their list of priorities. Staying in touch with one’s friends, for some people, just isn’t a top priority. David lost touch with some people he thought were his friends when he moved to Australia. Maybe this was a result of the time he went there; maybe not. I grew up in little old Fort Myers, Florida, where my friends were people I met in childhood. With every move I have made, starting when I left Fort Myers in 1976, I have lost touch with some friends and I have made new ones. The new friends don’t replace the ones who fell by the wayside in my life, but many of them are far more important to me now than the people for whose friendship was, apparently, based on geographic convenience. So, my advice is: Call, email, text, instant message, post, tweet, like, share, or send a smoke signal to let your friends know you value their friendship. Don’t wait; tomorrow might be too late!