“I love Jesus but I drink a little”. The saying on our wine cups Friday night could be the subtitle to the Edel Gathering 2017 we attended last weekend in Austin. There was Texas barbecue, bad karaoke, crazy shoes, prayers, good karaoke, talks that made us laugh and cry and of course, a little wine. We know we had fun. We know we were inspired. But did you know we experienced the ultimate type of friendship?
Aristotle said that there are three kinds of friendships. The first is a friendship of utility, useful but not deep. You are thrown together for a project say, or maybe you help each other study for an exam. The second level of friendship is a relationship based on mutual enjoyment and fun, the friendship of the young, Aristotle says. (Though it seems to me, in our “fast, easy, fun” culture, lots of friendships don’t get beyond this.) Growing from this second type is the ultimate form of friendship, the friendship that makes us better through shared values and a desire to love, more than to be loved.
As you mentioned, we reconnected with twelve other ladies from our pilgrimage at the Edel Gathering and I was a bit overcome seeing how the friendships among us have moved through those three stages. From sitting across the aisle on the tour bus at the beginning of the pilgrimage, making small talk, to having some laughs and wine at dinner, to sharing life-changing experiences in the Holy Land, we knew we had made a special bond. But it was after we returned that the magic really happened. Our group has kept in touch in the year and a half since the pilgrimage through social media, where we’ve prayed for and with each other and supported each other through some significant trials. Many of us have met up in various parts of the country celebrating birthdays, sharing countless meals and Masses and even holding each other up at three funerals. And last weekend, when fourteen of us came together, the bond just grew deeper.
I saw the same kind of bonding happening all around me last weekend. The Edel Gathering is the ultimate in anti mean-girl. Because inside every grown woman is a 7th grader walking into the lunchroom alone, there were designated table hosts to make sure no one felt left out during dinner. Women were taking it upon themselves to go around the room during cocktail hour to see if anyone was standing alone. Some of us more “mature” ladies even volunteered to be baby-holders to give new moms a break. (Yes, babes in arms were in attendance—it wouldn’t be a Catholic gathering if we didn’t celebrate new life!)
There was such a sense of openness and joy in everyone, and we shared faith and fun despite the range in ages and backgrounds. Over wine and sometimes-amazing, always-exuberant karaoke, friendships popped up around us like bluebonnets in a Texas field. I shared a big hug with a twenty-something wearing a Y’all Need Jesus hat and bonded instantly with a dear pair of ladies from Alberta, chatting away with them for hours on Sunday night.
Last weekend was proof that we crave that deeper connection in our lives. I watched three hundred women get a taste of what we fourteen already knew—that friends who want to help you be the best version of you, AND who are fun to be around, are the ultimate. And as I looked around that ballroom Saturday night, I realized that I’ve had that ultimate type of friendship since my college years—with you.
As the Golden Girls would say, thank you for being a friend.