I recently heard a story about someone being an extraordinary friend, and it made me proud to know her. It also made me want to write about it.

I consider myself extremely fortunate for the extraordinary friendships in my life. No matter what labels you use, whether it’s Ride or Die, or ICE, or BFF, the friendships we make, nurture, value, and honor are what bring quality and meaning to our lives.  In the past week alone, I’ve been the recipient of more displays of extraordinary friendship than I feel I deserve.  So, I’m motivated to both pay it back and pay it forward.

Health professionals will be the first to tell you that there are three benefits to having friends.  The first one, which seems obvious to me, is that friendships can offset life’s other stressors.  I often tell my divorcing clients to lean on their friends for emotional support during these times of anxiety.  The second benefit to having friends is they boost our self-esteem.  Friends will compliment you on your new haircut or your cute shoes and while that may seem superficial, having a network of wonderful friends enables us to take pride in those relationships.  And the third, perhaps most important benefit to having friends is that they create a sense of belonging for us.  When we feel included, we tend to be less depressed, and less hopeless.  

Here’s an epiphany that I tend to repeat often:  in order to have a friend, you have to be a friend.  Perhaps the most vital step in being a friend is to reach out.  I have a dear friend who often simply texts me “good morning.”  There’s no agenda, no invitation, no requirement to respond.  Instead of feeling obligated to reciprocate, I consider the spirit in which that greeting was made.  She was thinking about me.  How extraordinary is that? 

If you think that your friendship roster seems a little bleak these days, what would it look like if you attempted to make a new friend?  It’s not as hard as you think, provided you’re willing to put yourself out there a bit.  If you see the same people at the gym whenever you go, try saying hello.  Starting a conversation with a stranger doesn’t have to be scary.  Begin with a compliment and a smile and see where that takes you.  Suggest that you meet your neighbor for coffee with no agenda other than getting to know her beyond the mailbox. Or try volunteering at a pet shelter or an assisted living facility.  Think about what brings you joy and look for others who are like-minded.  And there’s always “Meet-Up.”  You may find a group that gets together right around the corner from you to discuss the stock market or wine trends.  

You never know where you’ll find an extraordinary friend.  And maybe you’ll have an opportunity to be one to someone else. 

If you have an example of an extraordinary friendship, please comment and share the story.