the more important things

Do you know that point at the end of the first Potter book when Hermione and Harry are stuck in a room full of riddles and potions? 

There’s this line that comes right after Hermione figures out the logic puzzle about which potion does what–wine, poison, take them forward to the philosopher’s stone, send them back towards the main part of the castle. Hermione tells Harry that he’s a great wizard, and he responds that he’s not near as good as she is–

“Me!” said Hermione. “Books! And cleverness! There are more important things–friendship and bravery–

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, by JK Rowling

Anyone who knows me knows how much I value books and cleverness. I mean, for pete’s sake–I’m living in my family’s old study right now. There are floor to ceiling bookshelves in here, and I had the gall to bring in a smaller one just so I could have a bedside shelf.

Books, and cleverness–easy and familiar. Read everything, memorize things, study a lot–I’ve had that down to a T for years. It’s why I decided to go to a school like Penn, why my middle school book club remains one of my favorite NYC memories, and why the library was the first places we stopped after moving to Philadelphia. I know books. I get books. Narratives, plot lines, character development–books are steady and concrete in a world that spends madly on.

Now, don’t get too worried: I do love books, of course. I want to write them one day, you know that. I like my new wall decorations, even if they are mostly filled with hundreds of my dad’s theology books (literally. There are hundreds). I love books, but Hermione was right in one when she said there are more important things–

Like friendship, and bravery.

…but especially friendship. Friendship can be easy–sunny days and coffee dates and laughter ringing loud and late night talks on the phone or over tea. Friendship can be hard–crying and yelling and, perhaps worst of all, that infuriating sense of helplessness when you’re miles away when they need you, or when you don’t know what to say, or when you can’t figure out what’s wrong and you’re just… stuck. 

Today was national friendship day. Did you know that? Did you call your best friend, or maybe reach across a table over coffee and squeeze her hand and say hey, you. You are an inspiration. You help me keep going. You mean the world to me and I just want to say thanks. Thanks for sticking with me, even though I know I’m a bit of a weirdo, and thanks for making me laugh and sitting with me when I cry. You’re a rockstar, and I hope you know that. 

Maybe you accidentally coordinated outfits, or just smiled and waved at a friend across the street. Maybe you didn’t celebrate at all.

Or maybe you did, even if you didn’t know it. For example: a bunch of my friends and I went out to brunch to celebrate our friend Gretchen. She’s headed back to the midwest next weekend and we wanted to send her off in style–pancakes, sandwiches, french toast, questions both serious and silly (“What was your favorite Philly thing?” from Matt, “If you were any type of lamp fixture, what would you be?” from Becky, “What three words would you use to describe Philly to your friends at home?” from Hannah).

Here’s the thing about my friends: they love fiercely and stubbornly and are really, really bad at letting people stay lonely. And sometimes? Sometimes that makes me smile rather goofily because they’re just so great, and sometimes I can’t stop thinking about how incredible they are–both individually and as a group.

Today was one of those days. Do you know what it’s like to be a stranger somewhere? To go where you know maybe one or two people (or maybe no one) and try to find some sort of community and support system while you’re there? I don’t care if you’re the biggest extrovert or most sociable being on the planet: it’s intimidating.

Now try to imagine this group of people who scheme–literally, they scheme; I’ve seen it happen–to become friends with you before you’re even there. You walk into a church service, or a potluck, or maybe you’re in college and it’s some sort of club meeting, Bible study or otherwise–and there they are. You won’t notice it at first, but they’ve got a whole system.

You’re new, and they’ll know it. They make an effort to meet new people. In fact, they’ve been expecting You, and they are so glad to finally meet You that they aren’t going to waste much time on small talk. 

Forget the weather. You like books? Talk to this person! Are you a film buff? Sci-fi geek? More into baking or dancing or singing or sign language or engineering or math or traveling or board games? You like that sort of thing? That is so cool! You should totally meet this person! 

Before you know it, you’ve met five new people, exchanged phone numbers, and been added to the unofficial group text of shenanigans: Game night anyone? Pizza here? Ice cream or gelato? Movie night at my place! 

In other words, my friends are the sort of friends that take one look at someone vaguely out of place and immediately go hey, she should be friends with us. And after that–you’re a goner. They want to know you and they aren’t very easily put off of their welcoming spirits. They’re the sort of people that make new places feel like home: still new, but full of friendly faces and fun adventures and, yes, lots of ice cream. They’re the sort of people that help you fix up your wardrobe or redecorate your apartment or go tea shopping with you just because. They’re the sort of people you want to show off to the world.

Hey world! Listen up! Just look at these people. They are small in number, but they can change the world. They changed my world. They love and they laugh and sometimes they cry but they are loyal to a fault and if you’re stuck, they’ll sit down beside you. They can be quiet and calming or so, so loud. They’re people, see, but it’s not just that because these are my people. They are mine, and I want you to know them. They love fiercely. They’re stubborn. They like goofy things and smart things and have inside jokes and semi-secret handshakes and can be such utter dorks at times, but they’re mine and the world is better because of knowing them.

I’m better for knowing them.

So happy friendship day to all of you. Thank you for loving much, loving well, and going out there to kick fear in the face and make new friends because you canIt has been, my friends, an absolute pleasure, and I am sure it will continue to be so. I know I don’t always say it, but I love you all very much and I am so, so proud of the people you’ve become, whether or not I have a right to be.

You’re going to captivate the world, I think. You’re going to make her stand up and dance for joy because even when this planet’s falling apart at the seams, you hold onto your hopes tightly and don’t let go for anything.

So keep going strong, okay? I’ll be right here with you, documenting your friendship, and bravery, laughing at your really bad puns, smiling at your stories. If I ever do anything worth doing, it won’t be my fault–it’ll be because y’all wouldn’t shut up about it because come on, Connor, you can totally do that. You’ll be great.

And hey–you know what? So will you. 

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