The Commodity of Friendship
Friendship- the “show up at the door, call or message out of the blue, and pick up where you left off” kind of friendship-has always been a rare commodity. If we are lucky enough to have one or two of those friendships, we treasure them, tend them and even share them. It informs us on how to make new friends, and also be a friend to those in need. I suspect friendship has always been a sort of commodity. Who doesn’t remember the relief of seeing a friendly face when walking into the middle school lunch room? Problem solved- another lunch taken care of in the company of a protector! But I can’t help but observe that the way in which friendship is “traded” in the digital age is something new.
I suppose friendship really became a commodity when we started counting Friends on Facebook- a social capital counter right there for all to see. I remember the excitement when our own Camp Mishawaka page achieved the milestone of 1,000 friends! It seems to me that friendships used to trade on what was a fairly “open” market, and follow a certain protocol. Maybe it does still today, and I just don’t understand the full protocols of how kids make and keep friends in the age of social media. Constant contact, liking (or not liking) a friends Instagram post can have dire consequences, and it can happen any time of day or night. I seem to recall, as an adolescent, going to bed and being reasonably assured that I would wake up the next morning with the same set of friends. Social media has created a sort of “after hours trading” in which anything can happen to disrupt the landscape.
I’ve seen it happen with our own children. Sometimes they share it, other times it’s just apparent that something is amiss in their world order. Opportunities for miscommunication abound. Slights, both real and perceived (inflicted by both commission and omission) can have out-sized repercussions in the life of a child. The frequency and speed at which the order shifts makes me dizzy. I can only imagine how it feels to them.
Our own children count among their “best friends” those that they met at Camp Mishawaka. Just recently a parent sent us a picture of a group of Camp friends who had gathered for a mini reunion. I spoke with a parent in Wisconsin just last week who was over-the-top excited that his daughter had a Camp friend from Kansas City visiting their home. We see staff develop life-long friendships in just 9 weeks together at Camp. Some have even gone on to marry. I think there are several reasons these deep bonds form in the Camp setting. There are no screens- messaging is done face to face. We see one another at our best, and at our worst, celebrating the former and accepting the latter. Beyond that, everyone that attends or works at Camp goes about tending the culture of friendship. Some might call it a by-product of a Camp experience, but for those of us who spend our days building it, it is the product.
At a time when true friends can be scarce, friendship is plentiful at Camp Mishawaka and bears fruit throughout the year and beyond.