This photo was taken at sunrise, at the ocean in Melbourne, Florida. I just returned from visiting friends there who recently moved to Florida after living 15 years in Michigan. I was overwhelmed at their hospitality, from delicious homemade meals to being given the guest “suite,” which included the luxury of a private bath. One of their 20-something daughters, a stellar stylist at a high-end salon squeezed me into her schedule with nearly no-notice. Another daughter, a recent graduate from the University of Michigan in the field of fashion design, expertly mended my favorite jeans.
Several times during our visit, my friends thanked me for coming. Their appreciation was beyond the conventional “thank you” that good manners dictates. They were grateful, surprised, genuinely pleased that I had sought them out in their new location. They seemed to be…touched that I had come to visit.
And even though I felt that I was the one who had received the greater gift, I understood their reaction to my visit.
I’ve observed that when friends move away, it is rare for the friends they have left behind to visit these friends in their new location.
It’s an interesting phenomenon because even when friendships have lasted decades, and the trip to the new location is not terribly far or the plane fare is not horribly expensive, there seems to be an unwritten rule that states those who move AWAY are expected to come BACK to visit. This is something you do not learn until you are the one who moves away.
When we moved to Columbus a decade ago, we left behind friends whose lives we had shared for 5, 10, 15, 20 years. We moved 4 hours away. And in the first few years we were gone, we made several trips back ‘home’ every year.
I remember bits and pieces of those many trips home, but what I remember more vividly are those occasions when friends made the trek to visit us — because it didn’t happen very often. When friends did come, I was so grateful I was sometimes moved to tears. Some friends came when I graduated from seminary. Three came during a painful period of loss. One came when I had major surgery. I didn’t expect her, and I barely had time to talk with her. But I will never forget that she came.
It is hard to maintain friendships across the miles. It takes commitment and creativity. It takes planning and effort. But more than anything, it takes showing up, at least once, at the home of the one who has moved. To the one who has moved, it is your visit to us that seems to bless our new home. When we know our friends can — and will — still find us, we feel more free to call our new location home.
Because part of what makes a house (or an apartment, or a condo) a home, is having our friends come over!
I know this is not a profound posting. I wrote it because I think it’s an important thing to know. If you’ve never moved away from your friends, especially friends you have known for many years, you might not know that they NEED you to go and visit them. You can count on them returning from time to time to visit you. And to YOU, that might seem like enough. But trust me when I say you need to also go and visit them.
When you do, they will undoubtedly thank you profusely. They might even be moved to tears. And this will likely feel a little odd to you, because I can almost guarantee that once you make the trip…you will be blessed because you came.