Currently, I'm writing a book set in Hungary. Yes, it's multi-cultural, and the book will explore cultural differences not just between the main character, Amanda (an American), and her Hungarian family but also with regards to a minority race. However, as with any women's fiction, the major themes will surround relationships. Family will play a major part in this but so will friendships. As any pantser will tell you, I always amaze myself when my characters do something quite unexpected. Amanda's love interest has a brother and two sisters. One of the sisters was going to be left in the background. She would add her own depth to the story as a minority struggling for an education that's been denied to her, but she was still going to be a minor character. Amanda had her own idea because she decided to make that woman a close friend. That's the trouble with book characters-- they have a mind of their own.
In honor of Amanda and Jolan's relationship, I've decided to write a blog post on the importance of friends. They comfort us when we're down and give a boot to the ass when we need it. True friends are valuable to our lives and how we live them. Aristotle has been quoted as saying, "In poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a surge of refuge. They keep the young out of mischief; they comfort the old in their weakness, and they incite those in the prime of life to noble deeds."
Research has shown that when people feel unloved and have no one to lean on, there is a higher propensity towards homelessness, obesity, divorce, and other social and personal ills. Tom Rath from Gallup Organization posted some enlightening statistics:
1. If your best friend eats healthily, you are five times more likely to eat healthy as well.
2. Married people say their friendship with each other is five times as important as physical intimacy.
3. People without friends in the work place have only a one in twelve chance of feeling engaged in their job.
But just because friendships have its benefits, it doesn't mean we seek out those who line up to certain ideals to give us these benefits. Just like with Amanda and Jolan, friendships can arise indirectly by just living life and following our passions.
I'll give you another example, a real one. I enjoy archery, but until late last year I hadn't shot in years. I discovered that a woman at church I liked but didn't know well had recently acquired a bow and has been excited about archery. We started talking, and since then, we've met almost every week for archery practice. While we shoot, we talk about our kids, our husbands, and our lives. We're connecting as we fling arrows at targets. Both of us were pursuing our interests which resulted in a friendship. The benefits we share are vital, but they're also incidental because it's not forced. It's natural.
When we embrace those close to us, we realize we're not alone. We have an advocate who helps us get through this life through counsel, good examples, and the best medicine of all-- laughter.