I recently asked a question on our Facebook Page:
“Tell me, what is it you wish most for when it comes to your child with a disability? (such as social activities, independence, education etc.)”
I was not prepared for the emotion the responses would illicit from me. I cried. It wasn’t new information for me, it just wasn’t what I was looking for. But I was rooted in my own self-interest and was expecting everyone to say what I wanted to hear.
What I did hear though was incredibly important, more important than my desire.
“I wish for my son to have a friendship”
“Happiness and true friendship”
“The want for true friendship for my son and to learn how to make friends”
Friendship! This is an important topic in inclusion, “How do we facilitate friendships?” are we asking the right question? It continues to be a conundrum.
Because I was so affected by the responses, I decided to do some research. I started with the word ‘friendship’ what does it really mean, how do people become friends?
I discovered that this is not just a problem for our children. Apparently, there are so many people in the world dealing with loneliness that it has become a public health crisis.
“During my years caring for patients, the most common pathology I saw was not heart disease or diabetes: it was loneliness.”
~ Dr. Vivek MurthyFormer, U.S. Surgeon General
Let’s look at another quote:
“In poverty as well as in other misfortunes, people suppose that friends are their only refuge. And friendship is a help to the young, in saving them from error, just as it is also to the old, with a view to the care they require and their diminished capacity for action stemming from their weaknesses; it is a help also to those in their prime in performing noble actions, for two going together are better able to think and to act.”
What is friendship for? What is its purpose?
From Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics he identifies 3 types of friendship:
- Friendship of Utility
- Friendship of Pleasure
- Friendship of Good
The Friendship of Utility is a relationship that is mutually beneficial and is not permanent in nature, we all have friends that come and go. Our lives and our interests change and the benefits of this type of relationship will shift because of this.
The Friendship of Pleasure is more common in younger people, it comes from an emotional source and is often short-lived.
The Friendship of Good is based on a mutual appreciation of the virtues that the other party admires. It takes time and depends on mutual growth, is automatically pleasurable and beneficial, and lasts until the end of time.
With the Friendship of Good there is mutual trust, admiration and awe.
An interesting video I found puts the purpose of friendship into 4 categories.
- Networking friendships
- Reassuring friendships
- Fun friendships
- The Thinking friend
Stating that it is important to have each of these and to be aware of the ‘proto’ friend who does not fit into any of these categories, but circles around our orbit.
I have these four types of friends. (and tons of ‘proto’ friends) But as I look at these I realize I am missing the “Friendship of Good”.
- I have friends that I collaborate and work with.
- I have friends that make me feel better about myself, friends that I can confide in.
- I have friends who I can be completely silly with.
- I have friends who will help me think through situations.
- I do not have a friend right now that I think will be with me on my deathbed. And, I think I know why…
I am way to busy. I don’t have time for nurturing. I am self-absorbed. I want instant gratification. I lack patience. I am always thinking about the next thing. I don’t relish in the present. I don’t experience the here and now. I am rooted in my own self-interest.
But why not? According to Thomas Hobbes, it is my right to preserve myself, to pursue my own good and to essentially do as I wish.
“Friendship is the highest degree of perfection in society” ~ Montainge
Check this out:
Maslow’s Hierarchy of human needs. Belongingness is a need!!! Having these relationships is a need.
I think this can and should happen for all our children.
I think we are on a good start for Friendship of Utility, maybe even Friendship of Pleasure but we are far from Friendship of Good.
Because we can’t see past the disability to the human being. We have assumptions. We have predisposed ideas. We have fear. We are ignorant. These are things that can easily be taught. Give people the information that they need and these things will go away.
But what about this reason….
We are way to busy being self-absorbed and we no longer have the patience to wait or the patience to just be.
“we live in the most technologically connected age in the history of civilization, yet rates of loneliness have doubled since the 1980s.”
~Dr. Vivek Murthy, Former U.S. Surgeon General
We should be worried about all children.
But back to the worries of friendships for our children:
I can teach my child proper social skills, I can facilitate play and conversations for her. Schools can put together “friendship” groups. But is anyone really looking at her? Is anyone looking at her virtues?
- She is kind. She is genuinely concerned when someone is sick or in pain. Sometimes she says she feels so sad because someone is sick, or someone’s friend died and she cries.
- She will persevere. Nothing will stand in her way. Don’t you want a friend like that?
- She is courteous and sincere.
- She is cheerful and funny.
- She is curious. How was your day? She wants to know things about others.
I could keep going. But I also wonder if she is learning about the virtues of others.
Maybe we need to be teaching all children what human qualities make a good friend.
Don’t we all deserve to have the Friendship of Good