Monthly Archives: January 2023

New Beginnings

Many years ago, I served as a lay leader in our church. Our congregation’s young women’s group asked me to speak at one of their activities called New Beginnings because it was at the start of a new school year. The young women would listen to me and then engage in an activity to learn how to quilt. So, as visual aids to my little speech, I brought two of my favorite quilts. My mother-in-law had made one of them, a patchwork of material scraps she had probably collected through the years. When we moved from Houston back to Dallas, a group of close friends gave our family the other quilt. These dear friends had covered it with 16 handprints and footprints of each of our friends and all their children. I told the young women that I loved to snuggle into these quilts on a cold night, not because of their fine quality, but because every time I did, I thought of family and close friends. And those thoughts alone would be enough to keep me warm.

Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships—the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace.“ I agree with FDR that human relationships are crucial to our happiness and even the survival of humankind. I have thought about the importance of relationships lately through writing my personal history. As I have thought about the events that made up my life, I have realized once again that it was not the events that were important to me, but rather those with whom I shared them. And those included my spouse, children, parents, siblings, friends, bosses and co-workers, doctors, and even God. And I learned that we can handle even the darkest experiences if we have a loved one or a friend to beside us.

Why are relationships sometimes so hard to create or manage if they are so meaningful? Books about relationships could fill dozens of libraries, but two recent movies have reminded me of a few lessons to keep in mind when dealing with others.

Lesson No. 1: You can find something to like in almost anyone. I like what Tom Hanks said about getting to know others: “Truth is, I’ll never know all there is to know about you just as you will never know all there is to know about me. Humans are, by nature, too complicated to be understood fully. So, we can either approach our fellow human beings with suspicion or approach them with an open mind, a dash of optimism, and a great deal of candor.”

In Here Today,[i] Charlie Burnz (played by Billy Crystal) is a well-known comedy writer who agrees to have lunch with the highest bidder at a charity auction. But Emma Payge (played by Tiffany Haddish), who shows up for that lunch, has almost nothing in common with Burnz, as depicted in this scene:

But as Burnz and Payge get to know each other, they become good friends. And when Burnz learns that he has a rare form of dementia, this happens:

And isn’t that what friends are for? Someone said that 80 percent of successful relationships is just showing up. No one wants to feel as if they are alone.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that Burnz and Payge became good friends. As they got to know each other, they found they had more in common than they first realized. But could it work with our rivals as well?

In Honor Society,[ii] Honor Rose (played by Angourie Rice) can’t wait to graduate high school. And her life-long goal is to attend Harvard, but as this trailer for the film tells us, Honor has three rivals standing in her way:

Honor believes she can get the upper hand on her rivals if she can distract them enough that they tank their midterms while she maintains her outstanding grade point average. But as she sets her traps in motion, she learns to like these rivals, even falling in love with one of them.

Lesson No. 2: Relationships can hurt. Bob Marley once said, “Truth is, everybody is going to hurt you: you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.” As Honor develops her new friendships, she gets hurt along the way. But in the end, she is all right with that because at least some of her new friends are worth it—even if it means giving up a spot at Harvard for one of them.

Lesson No. 3: The best relationships are based on mutual respect and caring. Thomas Merton said, “The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise, we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” The characters in Here Today and Honor Society let their new friends be themselves and vice versa. If we seek relationships built only on what the other person can do for us, those relationships are doomed to fail.  

I love new beginnings, whether starting a new year, having another birthday, changing jobs, or moving to a new area. With each new change, we can reevaluate our lives and determine where we want to go next. But as we do these reevaluations, let’s focus on what is most critical in our lives—the relationships we have with others, for that is where life’s joys and satisfaction come from.

[i] Here Today:

  • Production Companies: Astute Films, Big Head Productions, and Big Indie Pictures
  • Director: Billy Crystal
  • Screenwriters: Alan Zweibel and Billy Crystal
  • Starring: Billy Crystal, Tiffany Haddish, and Deirdre Friel
  • Release Date: May 7, 2021
  • Currently streaming on Starz

[ii] Honor Society:

  • Production Companies: Awesomeness Films and Guardian Pictures
  • Director: Oran Zegman
  • Screenwriter: David A. Goodman
  • Starring: Angourie Rice, Gaten Matarazzo, and Christopher Mintze-Plasse
  • Release Date: July 29, 2022
  • Currently streaming on Paramount