This year has proved difficult and stressful for most people in different ways. We have been so alienated from usual routines and weighed down by anxieties and fears, and because of this, one of the things that is at risk of being harmed is our friendships. Friendship does not necessarily need physical contact to thrive (my best friends all live away from me and I rarely see them), but the emphasis on lack of social contact this year puts friendships lower down the pecking order in some respects and means it can be difficult to maintain and develop those relationships.

There are, of course, many ways of staying in touch with people these days, including Zoom, Facetime, WhatsApp, letters, cards and texts, even if we cannot meet up in person. There are many ways we can still meet up, including going for a walk outdoors. But busyness, work, juggling so many different aspects of life and the inertia which in some ways lockdown produces have all taken their toll on friendship. We have had to work hard at our relationships at home after being thrust into 24/7 contact earlier in the year; for parents with young children, it has been difficult to do anything other than just exist, and all these things may mean that we have allowed our friendships to drift.

Few of us acknowledge that friendship requires commitment and effort and even fewer of us recognise how precious friendship is. Friendship is that relationship of choice. You can’t choose your family, the saying goes, but you can choose your friends. Friends are those people with whom we feel an affectionate affinity, who love us unconditionally and who care about us without necessarily demanding anything of us! Friends support us, cheer us up, listen to our moans and groans and put perspective back into our lives when the daily demands of shopping, cooking, washing up, eating, cleaning and working all threaten to weigh us down. (And that’s without a pandemic to contend with or any of the more difficult stresses of life!)

The Bible celebrates friendship and urges us to love one another deeply, from the heart. (1 Pet 4:8) Maybe today can be the day you reach out to a friend, even in lockdown, and remind them you care. Maybe it will mean putting aside the ironing in order to go for a walk with someone who is desperate for an adult conversation after hours of toddler speak. Maybe it will mean phoning or texting and listening to someone vent about things that are getting them down. Maybe it will mean choosing a card or present and posting it out so that someone will know they’re still loved when they feel isolated from the world. A little friendship goes a long way in these strange times and it’s good never to take anyone’s friendship for granted, for as with all relationships, neglect can mean the friendship withers and dies, and that’s a lonely place to be.