At the end of May, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Eastern Europe with eight dear friends from my hometown.

Donna with friends

To say that we had a great time would be an understatement as it was truly the trip of a lifetime for me. I have never seen such breathtaking and awesome architecture and design, especially inside and out of cathedrals, abbeys, castles, gardens, and parliament buildings. The beauty of the natural landscape was just as captivating as we were sailing along the Danube River through picturesque towns and beautiful capital cities.

Some days were full of heartbreaking history which was oftentimes overwhelming and heavy but nonetheless important to remember. Other days were filled with lots of walking cobblestone streets, meeting new people and eating and drinking local cuisine. And yet if you asked me my favorite part of the trip it would be spending time with my friends.

As the years go by, I find that friendship is one of life’s greatest blessings. Research shows that our social connections are a significant part of a lifetime of healthy aging and body, mind and spirit connections. Time with friends can even add years to our life and make the years we have more meaningful.

No matter our age or stage we continue to learn that a group to belong to and a regular time to connect with one another makes for more joyful living. Having a community of a few close friends keeps us from feeling isolated or lonely and gives us opportunities to have experiences to look forward to which can strengthen our mental health. Friends are a gift from God!

In between larger milestone trips my friends and I enjoy gathering several times a year for smaller weekend trips or evenings out. Most often we enjoy being around the table together, laughing and sharing our lives. Many conversations these days are spent reflecting on our memories of life at school, church and neighborhood. Not all gatherings, however, are fun and games as being friends since middle school (and a few elementary school) means we have walked along side one another through many of life’s more challenging and difficult losses and changes as well. We are grateful for our times together and thank God for the experiences shared.

All through the scriptures we find examples of beautiful friendships. Ruth and Naomi were in-laws and friends that grew from being kindred spirits through life’s ups and downs. Jonathan and David were boyhood friends that lasted until death and Paul and Timothy were friends and mentors who learned from each other’s gifts and wisdom. Jesus also had intimate friends in the home of Mary , Martha and Lazarus where he spent many hours  eating and sharing life as well as resting from the crowds and finding peace for his days.

The Friendship Blessing

May you be blessed with good friends.
May you learn to be a good friend to yourself.
May you be able to journey to that place in your soul where
there is great love, warmth, feeling, and forgiveness.
May this change you.
May it transfigure that which is negative, distant, or cold in you.
May you be brought in to the real passion, kinship, and affinity of belonging.
May you treasure your friends.
May you be good to them and may you be there for them;
may they bring you all the blessing, challenges, truth,
and light that you need for your journey.
May you never be isolated.
May you always be in the gentle nest of belonging with your anam ċara.

From Anam Cara: A Book Of Celtic Wisdom by John O’Donohue