One of the hardest things for me about the current shelter-at-home orders, has been being apart from my friends. I miss them terribly, and I’ve had to find different ways of getting together with them.
A week ago, Ken and I drove to our beach and parked six feet away from our friends’ car so we could watch the sunset together. We rolled down our windows and talked and laughed as we enjoyed each other’s company from a safe distance. Friends in another state called us on FaceTime at suppertime and we enjoyed a meal together. Last Thursday I prayed with four of my fellow writers via Skype. We didn’t have to worry about social distancing since we live far apart—in California, Missouri, Michigan, Georgia, and Lyon, France. But prayer for our families and for our calling as writers forms the basis of our friendship, and being together helped ease our anxiety in these trying days. On Friday, I shared a conference call with the faithful friends in my writers’ critique group to discuss our current works-in-progress. Their feedback and friendship were life-giving, as it has been for the past 25 years that we’ve been together.
They say “birds of a feather flock together,” and in nature I think it’s mostly true. I like to hang out with friends who share common interests and hobbies with me, such as writing or biking or our Christian faith. But every now and then, you see something like this in nature:
I’m not a bird expert, but clearly, that pelican doesn’t quite fit in. Which got me thinking about my own friendships. I’ve noticed that while my friends and I share much in common, we are very different on a deeper level. I’m an introvert, many of them are extroverts; I need to think things through, some are wonderfully spontaneous; I’m reserved, the convivial ones bring much-needed laughter into my life. Over the years, the differences they’ve brought to our friendship has helped me grow in many important ways.
In my newest novel, “If I Were You,” I wanted to explore the theme of friendship. Like my friends and me, the main characters, Eve Dawson and Audrey Clarkson, are very different from each other. The novel takes place in England in a Downton Abbey-like manor house, and the obvious difference between the two friends is that Eve is Audrey’s servant. But when England becomes engulfed in the second World War, the friends’ differences become less important as they unite to fight a common enemy. Together they endure the challenges and hardships of the war and its aftermath.
And that’s what I’ve noticed about this very different war we’re currently battling. My friendships seem to be growing stronger, not weaker, even though we’re apart. No matter where we live, we’re all experiencing the same unsettling fears and deep concerns for our families and loved ones. The separation has caused me to pray harder for them, and to tell them I love them more often. When I can finally be with my friends again, the hugs and laughter we share are going to be more precious than ever before.
We’re all in this together, all around the world, and while our individual circumstances may differ, the broad outlines of what we’re enduring in this pandemic and quarantine give us much in common. I hope the memory of our shared experiences will remain and continue to unite us. Will you join with me in praying that, when this is over, our differences will be far less important than they were before? Will you pray that, as children of our Heavenly Father, we’ll remember the unity of our shared struggle? We’re all in this together.