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The Gift of Friendship

Even before COVID, I tended to live an isolated life. I interacted with my colleagues and students at the Writing Center where I worked, and I chatted with other ushers at cultural events—but once I was at home, I welcomed the silence and aloneness that my apartment offered. COVID, however, has made me more cognizant of the value of people—of how friends have provided a silver lining to the darkness of this pandemic.

I wonder what I would have done if the parents of the children I tutor had not reached out to me during these past twelve months. They have grocery-shopped for me, brought me dinners, and stayed in touch with me on a regular basis. I used to tell my middle school students that friends are the family we choose for ourselves; how fortunate I am that my friends have chosen me to be a part of their extended families.

For the past five years, I have attended my city’s Broadway Cabaret. The Cultural Trust assigned me to a table with three other people, none of whom I had previously known. However, our shared love for Broadway turned us into friends who went to dinners and shows together and celebrated each other’s birthdays. Since the pandemic, one of those friends has become my surrogate sister. We are the same age, have similar backgrounds as educators, and embrace the same politics and values. Every morning, we chat for an hour; while we do not solve the world’s problems, we do explore them and, more importantly, we remind each other that neither of us is alone. Having this woman in my life is a silver lining that is sustaining me through COVID and will, I hope, continue to give me joy as the two of us move further into our senior years.

COVID has challenged me in so many ways. It has made me—a person who has always seen the glass as half empty—into someone who does not even see the glass. It has disrupted my sleep, keeping me tossing and turning with nightmares about ventilators and the fates of my two adult children should the virus destroy me. It has turned my aloneness into loneliness.

But COVID has also enriched my life with friends—a silver lining that does not tarnish.

Ronna L. Edelstein
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania