Next year, Dean and I are especially looking forward to visiting friends. Some are people we knew before they were adults, and some helped us learn what adults could be, but all of them live somewhere we don't. Here are seven reasons we really appreciate the people we've known for awhile:
1. They live in really interesting places. This year, we've been in the mountains, the valleys, big cities and tiny towns. We love exploring places on our own, but the experience is richer when we have friends to tell us stories about their neighborhoods and their communities.
2. We get to eat with them (and sometimes even to stay at their homes). Whether our time together is long or short, we usually get to have a meal (or at least a snack!) with the friends whose community we're visiting. And food makes it easier to talk, doesn't it?
3. Old friends' customs are familiar in a new place. Some of the friends we're visiting have been roommates at one time or another. Even though the years change us in many ways, getting together with an old roommate can be comfortable in a way that meeting new people isn't.
4. Old friends are great for connecting us with new friends. Even when we just saw that "old friend" a few months earlier, when we meet them in their territory, we get to meet their friends (who sometimes become our friends ... and we love making new friends).
5. Who else shares memories of the particular bit of your life that old friends share? These are the people who remember the fifth-grade teacher who wore the same top every day for a week. They remember fighting over doing the dishes. They know what you looked like when you had brown hair.
6. Related, but not the same: Apart from the family you grew up with, who knows how you felt on your first day of kindergarten? First kiss? First time away from home? When you sent a child off to the first day of school? When you first dealt with loss?
7. Getting to know old friends in a new setting has been a wonderful experience. We can't wait for the opportunity to get to know more of you all over again.*
*In 2016, we plan to visit a church and a bar in every state, and we're hoping to stay in homes as much as possible. If you'd like us to visit your church or your favorite bar, or if you'd be willing to host us (we don't eat much, and we're happy to sleep on the floor), please let us know! We expect to cross the southern US in the first part of the year, then head up the East Coast. We think we'll be in the Midwest in the fall, and the Northwest as the year ends.