Words and images by Laurel Herrick
There were five of us – Emily, Ava, Sofia, Mikayla and myself.* Five young women full of life and joy huddled over cappuccinos and chai lattes. After months of planning a weekend retreat, it was finally happening! We got together over lunch and made cozy plans to meet in an old white farmhouse.
Mid-October we gathered for our retreat. The flowers were dead and the grass was brown and brittle; autumn was settling comfortably on the hills of southern Missouri, but we had never felt so alive.
I arrived in the late afternoon. The driveway gravel made a comfortable crunching sound under the tires. Before I could step out of my car my friends had gathered around me, laughing for no apparent reason, hugging me and pulling me into the farmhouse all at the same time. In that moment I felt more loved and accepted than any one person deserves.
“Can I ask you guys something?” Ava asked us. Only a few minutes had passed before we were drinking hot tea and sitting on kitchen linoleum. I smiled – thinking how easily we slipped into comfortable conversations.
“Of course, dear,” I said. “We’re always here for you.”
“I’m at a crossroads in my career.” Ava continued to explain the situation. “Do I stay where I’m at or pursue this opportunity in Chicago?” I think we all recognized this was a heavy decision she couldn’t bear alone. Immediately, Mikayla and Emily leaned forward, offering support. Sofia asked thoughtful questions. We were able to provide objective perspectives and encouragement, becoming a network Ava could rely on.
As the discussion continued, a thought struck me: we bring out the finest qualities in each other! A good friend makes you the best that you can be. Iron sharpening iron. And a group of friends works as a team, loving, guiding, supporting and bringing to light the core beauty of each member. That’s what my friends and I did for each other – we encompassed the phrase “body of friendship” or “true friendship”.
C.S. Lewis explains the “body of friendship” perfectly in his book The Four Loves: "In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets... Hence, true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth...”.
Emily pulled herself up from the kitchen floor.
“Let’s go for a walk in the woods.” Sunshine warmed our faces and we felt nothing but happiness. Mikayla led us to the creek bed below the farmhouse where the water was clear and cold. Our retreat was going quite nicely! I sat back on the grass and quietly observed the pretty scene. Mikayla and Sofia were climbing trees (they were the thrill-seekers of our group), while Emily was telling Ava about her latest novel.
I heard someone walking up behind me. It was Mikayla – she sat down beside me and hugged her knees.
“Whatchu thinking about Laurel?” she asked.
“Oh… not much. I think I might write a piece on our weekend together.” Mikayla nodded thoughtfully.
“Any idea what you’ll say?” I paused. I told her what I’d been thinking:
“Individually, you (my friends) and I are unique; some of us are adrenaline junkies while others are more reserved characters and there are definitely coffee-drinkers versus tea-drinkers. Life is playing out differently for each of us – whether it be college, marriage or ambitious careers. Nevertheless, we are a body of friends – inseparable through the triumphs and trials of life. We push each other forward!”
To the reader: No matter who you are or what you do, always surround yourself with good friends. They will spot you through life’s challenges, they will give you warm companionship and you will support them with love in return. Two, three, four, (or more) friends bring out the best in each other – working together as a body. After all, “true Friendship is the least jealous of loves.”
*names changed for privacy