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The Business of Making Friends

By Heather Herrick

IMG_9188Yesterday we spent the day traipsing from one side of Manhattan to the other. Our long-time friend is in town, my hubby had the day off of work; it was the last day of summer so we decided to make a day of it. We explored a new City park on the abandoned tracks of an elevated train, visited a fancy market where we sampled gourmet brownies and drank creamy milk from a local farm, the kids, ran/slid/climbed at a playground in Chinatown before enjoying dinner at our favorite Noodle house. (Bonus that almost everything on the menu is less than $5.)

We ended the day at Washington Square Park. There’s always a motley crew in this park. We entered at one corner and passed a jazz trio meandering in and out of discord, a couple hundred more feet brought us to a punk trio, with their amp out getting ready to rock, couples chatted around the fountain, college kids clustered on the benches smoking cigarettes and eating take-out sushi. We found a spot to let the kids run around as we chatted. I noticed a guy sitting on an apple green blow-up couch behind the bench. Hard to miss. As people were passing he would hold up a big container of cookies and say, “Would you like a cookie? They’re free! They’re fresh. They’re vegan.” A lot of people stopped to take a cookie or two. They’d say, “What are you doing out here?” He’d reply, “Just making friends.” Then he’d go on to ask people’s names and start up brief conversations. IMG_9198

Before too long my kids noticed him too. They wandered over, watching him a little suspiciously. Strangers don’t just offer you free cookies, do they? My four-year-old looked to me first and said, “Can I have a cookie mom?” I nodded, though admittedly I leaned to my husband first and said, “Do you think they’re okay? I mean, he could just be crazy putting weird stuff in cookies to give away for free.” My husband rolled his eyes and said, “I’m sure they’re fine.” As my son approached the guy on the couch said, “I can’t give cookies to people under the age of 16 unless I know it’s okay with their mom or dad.” I spoke up from a few feet away to give the go-ahead as Cole reached up and grabbed a cookie out of the pile. My six-year-old daughter followed suit , then my 18 month-old toddler wandered over to check him out. It took her a few minutes before she decided to get a cookie. First she waved and said hi, then she stared, sucked her thumb, took a pile of his business cards, gave them back, waved again, and finally took a cookie. I grabbed one too at this point. I asked him about his blow-up couch, other passers-by stopped for cookies and from snippets of all the conversations I learned that he’s been doing this for a few weeks, a couple times a week. He tried it in February without the green couch and it didn’t work that well. Yes, he’s made some new friends. That didn’t surprise me; everyone knows chocolate chip cookies are a sure way to open hearts-even if they’re vegan. (Side note, these really were the best vegan treats I’ve had.)IMG_9206

This experience got me thinking, as my time with New Yorkers often does. I’d spent the day sharing time, good food, and conversation with a friend I’ve known since I was twelve. She took a plane, a bus, and a train to come and spend time with us. And at the end of the day we met someone who is giving out free cookies on an inflatable couch, so he can make friends. I don’t know how philosophical I can wax here, but doesn’t there seem to be a cosmic connection? Isn’t it cool that people out there want to make connections? Meet new people? Be friends? Give us cookies? I like it! We need friends; we want to be connected; it’s not really that hard to do and yet it takes some doing. IMG_9199

How have you made your closest friends? How do you keep those friendships thriving? How do you meet new people?

About Heather Herrick

Heather currently lives in the center of the universe (she’s not being egotistical, it’s true—ask any other New Yorker). She loves NYC, but misses the mountains of Utah where she grew up. Heather and her husband are glad that the baby from her poem now sleeps alone; baby two spoils her mama by having the cutest dimple ever, and hopefully will not become a kicker like her sister.

20 thoughts on “The Business of Making Friends”

  1. when i was nine, i still didn't really have any friends at school or church. then one day Jeana, who was a year behind me in school, walked up to me and said "wanna be best friends?"

    i said "sure" and that was that. years later when i asked her why she did that, she said "i just thought about how everyone treated you, and while i was thinking about it, i couldn't figure out why they were mean so i decided to be your friend."

    she's one of the biggest blessings in my life…and one of the first of the many tender mercies the Lord put in my path. ♥

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  2. PS: i stay in touch via email, facebook, my cell phone, my blog, and my job (flight attendant). it' helps that i can fly for free, and i take advantage of layovers in cities to have lunch with friends who live there.

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  3. I met one of my good friends when I sold him my wireless router on Craigslist almost three years ago. We emailed so much about it that Gmail automatically put us on each other's chat lists. It took us a few minutes of chatting to realize who the other person was, but, as they say, the rest is history. We've been chatting and spending time together ever since.

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  4. I find the best way to make friends is the cliche phrase- to be one first. So many times when I've been lonely, I've made an effort to reach out to the people around me, and often with a prayer in my heart. One friend of mine, a dear, dear friend and mentor (almost old enough to be my mother), became my friend when I invited her to a "party" at my house. I didn't really know her at all, had never really spoken to her, but I felt prompted to invite her. Little did I know how lonely she was or how badly she was needing friends, nor how much I would need her in the months following, as well as now. She helped me immensely when I had my miscarriage, her husband helped mine find his current job and is now a boss of sorts to my husband (no matter how long this jobs ends up lasting, whether for a couple more weeks/months or longer!) And it feels like a lot of my friends are that way– one or the other of us has reached out in a time of need ourselves, only to find that our friend was there the whole time, waiting for us.

    I think the guy on the green couch has the right idea. When you need a friend, you be one. And you give cookies!

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  5. The closest friendship my husband and I have made since getting married was also forged through cookies! There is a couple in our ward who live on the same floor of our apartment complex as we do. My husband ended up speaking in Sacrament meeting on the same day that they did, and we talked with them briefly after the meeting. They seemed like people we wanted to get to know better. We went over that night with cookies and laughed as my husband said, "we just wanted to say thanks for speaking with me" (as though it was planned by us or we had anything to do with them speaking). It was a nice ice-breaker and we have ever since been camping and playing games together regularly. Cookies really can bring the power of friendship.

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  6. I moved right before 10th grade. At my old school I had one or two good friends but was definitely not awash in them. I was a lot socially awkward. It was like I had a big target painted on my back or something that said "torment me". There were a few that had it worse but not many. I feel ashamed that I was so interested in my own social survival, that I wasn't an advocate and didn't speak up more often for others in similar or more difficult situations.

    When I moved to the new school in the new town it was a fresh start. The "cool" kids wanted to be my friend. It never felt right and they were so mean to each other and berating of those beneath their social sphere. Here was what I always wanted and it felt so wrong. I didn't decide to be enemies with them or anything I just found a group of really good kids, a little goofy in wonderful ways, (like my true inner self) and they are still my friends today.

    Most of us live in the same state, but we use the internet to keep up with those who don't. We get together a couple of times a year. Many of us are on Facebook. We also have a site on MyFamily.com that we have had for years. I go to book group once a month with one of them and my husband helped one of them get a job where he works. (The same guy took me to my senior prom).

    I tend to be pretty absorbed in the social structure of my own family but I have many good friends in my ward and neighborhood. Sometimes I feel bad I don't reach out more. I am "fat and happy" in the friend department with just my family, old school friends, relatives (some that even live in my ward), and a few neighbors.

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  7. It's very hard for me to make friends. I'm just not that good at it. I haven't had any true friends, you know those bosom friends, in a very long time. I think my expectations are too high, but then I think…I just want to be treated how I treat others…compassion, understanding, care,…being accepted for who I am and what I believe, loyalty…etc… Is that too much to ask? No, really, I want to know.

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  8. Sissy, those virtues are not too much to ask. A long time ago my grandma told me, "Your friendship is a treasure that is was valuable and you should not just give your whole heart away to just anyone." I was in a season of social dearth and had come home from the bus stop in the morning in tears because of a betrayal by some one who I had spent almost every summer day with. It had been a splendid summer. To find out that I was a good enough friend for a summer but the school year well that was another matter.

    That said there are good people out there, maybe just like you. I would venture to guess that there are many that are good and compassionate, understanding, caring, loyal and true, etc… right around you looking for a friend. Don't give your whole heart away to anyone all at once, but a smile, a kind word, a simple act of service rendered can do a lot to reveal those who would be worthy of the gift of your friendship.

    Sissy, I might just be an internet acquaintance but I'm very glad to meet you. Tell us a little about yourself. 🙂 If I could reach through the screen I would offer you a cookie. They are from the store, my mom bought and brought (if not baked) them with lots of love, on her way home from work this morning. She is my friend, she would be yours as well.

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  9. ah Sissy, the world is full of people who want to be your friend! Including the women of Segullah! Have you read the book "How to Make Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie? It really is marvelous. Just continue to be yourself and friends will flock to you!

    lovely post Heather!

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  10. Oh, i also wanted to say that i love the blow-up couch! what a fun idea. we should have a BYOC party and watch movies on someone's garage…wouldn't that be fun?! or fireworks. parades. i see all kinds of applications where a blow up couch would be a great ice breaker.

    in the past month, i've been on two trips where i met ladies who have become dear friends through blogging. shelah was the first person i ever met IRL that i'd discovered online. it always surprises me, just when you think "i've got my peeps. my posse is set" in this world, someone comes along who is so dear that they get put in the bestie-for-life lockbox. that is always so fun!

    i♥you guys!

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  11. I'm totally going to put a blow-up couch next to the mailbox area in my neighborhood!

    I'm always on the prowl for new friends. I pretty much always make the first move. I bring people goodies until they relent and agree to be my friend.

    It's a lot easier to make friends in a transient town than it was when we lived in Utah and everyone had grown up there and had their social lives set in stone.

    I've found that making friends is pretty much impossible if you don't go out of your way. At least for me.

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  12. I was with a friend in McDonalds in Wells, Maine one day about 6 years ago and went to sit down with my food and an old woman was motioning for me to sit down by her. I turned thinking she was motioning to someone behind me. She wasn't. I went over and she said, "My friend and I just noticed your beautiful red hair." They invited me to sit with them when my friend saw me she was surprised but sat down too. We had the most enjoyable conversation with Jean and Julia! They were delightful! It was one of my best days ever. I went back numerous times to meet Jean for lunch at the Maine Diner and I always took one of my friends along to meet her too. She had a stroke and was hospitalized one year around Christmas and I drove to see her (about 1 1/2 hours away) on Christmas Day. Unfortunately she moved to Wisconsin to be with her son so I never saw her again but we corresponded by occasional letters until last November when she passed away. I enjoyed hearing about Jean's life (her husband crossed a crowded dance floor to ask her to dance) and she moved to the U.S. when she was 10 (from Lithuania) and didn't speak any English. It was a treat to meet her. I love making friends! I met Leslie G. through blogging — I found her blog randomly and then saw her at the BYU-BC football game a few years ago but didn't know her name (and didn't want to scream "SMART MAMA" in the stands!) so I left her a comment on her blog and we've been friends since. She's one of my Mormon Lady Blogger friends. 🙂 I call/email/write letters to friends to stay in touch. It's not uncommon for 10-12 families to move in/out of my ward every summer so I keep in touch with the old friends and become friends with the new people. A few times I've seen people and thought "I want to be their friend" and have called them or visited and we have become friends. My life has been very blessed with lots of great friends.

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  13. Isn't it cool that friends can literally be found anywhere? Thanks for sharing that cool story Ellen.

    You do generally have to make quite an effort. When we serve each other,whether it be through goodies, or watching kids, or just being a listening ear it's hard not to form a bond that goes deeper than saying, "hello, how are you?" It comes more easily for some than others, but I do believe that there is always someone who's going to need you, and you'll in turn need them. It takes time, but shared experiences, kindnesses, conversations will build those relationships.

    Thanks everyone for sharing. Here are some virtual cookies for you-000

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  14. I'm going to email a link to this post to someone who tells me they're anti-social because they don't know how to make friends. Really, it doesn't take much. I love this story! And Ellen is one of those people who you can't help but be friends with… I feel blessed to call her friend. I think the inflatable green couch is AWESOME. And who doesn't like cookies? I'm taking notes and taking action. Love it.

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  15. Because I've lived away from my family for most of my life, and wasn't close to them for a long portion of that time, I really needed friends and reached out to make them. I have been very blessed.

    Typically, I've been the one to do the initial reaching out, but last year a couple of gals moved into my ward who really reached out to me. It was so nice!

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  16. ellen's story reminded me that once before my mission i went on a cross-country train ride by myself, and i made two friends during segments of that journey. one was an elderly lady and she just adopted me and wrote me during my mission, sent me a wedding gift when i got married. all because of our visit during that trip.

    another time was when we had just moved to vermont and bought our first home. i had this whole yard and nary a gardening tool. looking in the classified ads i found someone selling a bunch, so i headed over and it was a recently widowed elderly woman. we visited that whole afternoon as she went through her deceased husband's garage and sold me the duplicates. we kept in touch and i would visit her every couple months. she loved my kids and our visits. she died a few years later.

    I make a lot of friends on flights. you know that strange phenomenon of people opening up and sharing with you on a flight because they'll never see you again? well sometimes those conversations link people unexpectedly, and they become besties.

    my latest bestie connected up with me because of my blog post about depression. she related and wrote me a long note and we've gotten together IRL and i just love her.

    i was inspired to take bagels to someone one day who i had met but didn't really know. it was an odd impression, but i did it anyway, and when i arrived, her water had just broken with her fourth baby. she wasn't ready at all, and was actually a little bit in denial that this baby was arriving that night. i helped her gather her stuff for the hospital, and watched her kids till her parents arrived that night. we've been friends ever since. you just never know when something like a bagel is going to change your life.

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  17. The only time my list of friends runs dry is when I quit taking responsibility for being a good friend to others. When I reach out, they reach back. Always.

    =)

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