With the coronavirus pandemic flooding over us, this is a good time to have friends. But with a time of national antagonism grinding among us, many believe that a friend can only be someone who dislikes the same candidate for president that you do.

In considering the dimensions of friendship, there are two questions: who can be friends and what does friendship look like. On the issue of who can be friends, of course political preferences can’t be the only criterion, but without dismissing politics as sole standard we must first ask ourselves if we have any friends of the opposite party. To get more particular, do we have any close acquaintances with strong opposite views of our own strong views on wearing protective COVID face masks. Probably not anybody we consider friends.

Where do friends come from? Many start in school with classmates. My two closest boyhood lifetime friends were from grade school and both are gone. To this day, they represent missing persons in my life.

Neighbors often develop into friends. Proximity counts big time. My closest two missing adult friends were neighbors. As a result, our wives and children became friends. Whenever the old neighbor friends get together, we all recognize there is a different dynamic without them.

Music, sports, church, civic affairs, travel, business and other mutual interests bring people together in friendship. Sometimes coincidence does too, like two people thrown together side by side on an assembly line, or office or retail store. Sometimes the friends have absolutely nothing in common with one another, including skin color – except heart. Good friends have hearts that connect.

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What does friendship look like? The essential ingredient in friendship is that friends care about one another. During a pandemic like this one, they stay connected but they understand they have to connect at arms-length, recognizing careful and safe connections by phone, mail, texts and however, if they live close enough, they can throw kisses back and forth for that matter.

Caring for one another, they share one another’s joy and pain. Yes, they laugh together, sing together, cry together and mourn together. That’s how loyalty works. As expressed with calls, cards, letters, hot dish, apple pies, tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden, apples from the apple tree, eggs from the hen house and walleyes from the lake. Friends lend you their books and occasionally their pickup. And they shovel your driveway when your sick. Friends have your back, pay you compliments, love your children and defend your reputation – while respecting your privacy.

Yes, one of the great gifts of life is a good friend or a couple of good friends. As Daniel Hoyt (1809 – 1884) wrote in a “Sermon in Rhyme”:

If you have a friend worth loving,

Love him. Yes and let him know

That you love him, ere life’s evening

Tinge his brow with sunset glow.

Why should good words ne’er be said

Of a friend till he is dead?

Cut this out and send it to a friend or two. You may not get another chance.