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Submitted by: Patricia Bubash, M.Ed., LPC

hugMy last musing on One Legacy made reference to the Girl Scout song “Make New Friends” which goes “Make new friends, but keep the old, One is silver and the other gold.” Well, I believe that to be credible we must follow our own advice.  I don’t want to be accused of being one who extorts, “Do as I say, not as I do”.  So I took my own advice to keep old friends close at hand, and after almost two years of phone calls, emails, and more phone calls, it was determined – enough with the talk, let’s make this happen.  And so, I scheduled a reunion with my former colleagues from a very unique workplace:  the island of Haiti. The two years that I worked with these three ladies were life-changing years for me.

Our reunion became a reality last week in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Without a doubt, we found each other looking different from the last time we were together!  Physical illness and emotional losses have made changes in our outward appearances, and, for some, physical capabilities. Joyce is currently in her last treatment for breast cancer; Mona Lou has a cane and a slow gait left after she endured a stroke and a heart attack; and Diane, the last member of our group, is now a widow.

I can’t say this was a vacation.  There was no lounging on the beach, hanging out at the hot spots, or even walking the beach at sunset, but for all it lacked in activities, it was special. We filled the restaurant with laughter as we told stories about, and on, each other!  A pact was made that these stories would never leave our circle.  Our children were never to know some of the silly things that we had done, and so I cannot write them now or I would be negating this time-honored agreement!

HaitiThe four of us met more than two decades ago when we were employees at a private, international school in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The student body was composed of local Haitian children, embassy children from the United States, and international students. I have lived in many different places as a Navy urchin, but this was my first experience as an employee in a foreign environment.  Haiti is not so far from the states, but as a third world country and the poorest in the Western Hemisphere, it may as well be worlds away.  Our teaching staff was as diverse as our student population.  There was a young competitive swimmer from Australia, the son of an American ambassador, and other teachers from Tahiti, Jamaica, and even that foreign country of New York!

My three friends and I were only together for two years, but the shared experiences have woven us together for life. It was the first time that I had not been living with my parents, was not married, and had no children at home (the last one had just finished high school).   I was really on my own.  My friends Mona Lou, Diane, and Joyce had lived in Haiti forever, and two were married to Haitian men.  They not only helped me to find my way into the dynamics of the school, but they offered their homes, cars (though I never drove while there – too crazy in the streets for my novice skills), and their companionship to this newbie.

Having grown up as a Navy child, I have noted that when people live away from family, friends become family replacements.  Often those chosen to “substitute” for family members become more like family than actual relatives.  The ones who are there when adversity hits, special occasions are celebrated, and holidays are observed are the ones who share our memories and our stories. These situations forge lasting friendships, and so I say, once again, make new, but keep the gold.

drinking teaExplore Further:

Read the full lyrics to the Girl Scout song “Make New Friends,” or hear it here.  Learn all about nurturing friendships at About.com, peruse a variety of articles about friendship at Psychology Today, or read about making friendships at the Help Guide. Wondering how to maintain the friendships you have? Gretchen Rubin has some tips at the “The Happiness Project.” Finally, Wesley Johnson discusses how older people are actually happier than younger people and how part of that has to do with their friendships!

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