By Rashida McKenzie
Friends - how many of us have them? Ones we can depend on? Well, according to a study done by the American Sociological Review, not many of us. The study says that twenty-five percent of Americans have no one to close to confide in, and that we have a third fewer close friends and confidants than just two decades ago, which they believe is a sign that people may be living lonelier, more isolated lives. Friends - how many of us have them? Ones we can depend on? Well, according to a study done by the American Sociological Review, not many of us. The study says that twenty-five percent of Americans have no one to close to confide in, and that we have a third fewer close friends and confidants than just two decades ago, which they believe is a sign that people may be living lonelier, more isolated lives.
While that may be true of Americans in general, I don't think that the same holds true for African-Americans. In fact, friendship plays a vital role in the way that we interact in our communities.
Many of us have grown up with "play" cousins, or women or men whom we refer to as aunts and uncles. Although they were not blood relatives, they were sometimes closer to us than those who were. Those relationships are reflections of the strong bonds that your parents or grandparents forged, which have trickled down to you.
Last year I became a Godmother, and for me it was one of the biggest honors I have received thus far. Why? Because this new relationship mirrors the friendship that I developed with her mother, who has been my best friend since childhood. It was a testament of the fact that she had so much trust in me based on our past, that she would trust me enough with the thing that she cared about in life the most.
Trust is the main ingredient when it comes to building lasting friendships. You have to be able to confide in someone. Friends are people you don't have to hide around, and who allow you to reveal your true self. The purpose of putting it all out on the table is so that that person can motivate you, support you and hold you accountable.
Perhaps that is what has changed. There is a lack of trust and a lack of accountability partially because of the times in which we live. Be honest. Have you seen someone's child, husband or wife doing something they had no business doing, but you were just more interested in minding your own? For some that is a very new concept. Some people remember a time when you used to be able to go next door to their neighbor's house and chat for a while before asking to borrow a cup of sugar. You could depend on them to keep your child if you were not going to be home or scold your child if they were caught doing something wrong.
Nowadays, many of us do not know our neighbors, so we are not going to ask them for anything. We are opposed to letting them interact with our kids and we're definitely not going to get involved in their mess. However, that is what creates the isolation that the study is talking about. It comes from not wanting to put yourself out there, either out of concern for your safety or your emotional well being. Believe it or not, taking that risk to reach out is more likely to benefit you than to cause problems.
There is proven medical research that has found that those who have more friends tend to be happier, healthier and live longer than those who don't. Friends are not just fun to have, they are vital to your quality of life
So if at some point we get back to an "open door policy," by welcoming people into our lives, baggage and all (we all have it), the people who you are isolated from out of concern for your safety have the potential to become your safety net. You know, the ones who pick your children up from school, the one who motivates you to do better; the one who is there for you in good times and bad times, and they'll stay on your side forever more, because that's what friends are for.