My son spent the weekend with his Boy Scout troop at a campout. He came home elated, having chopped wood, made chili and French toast and laughed with some new good friends.

Last night, we had dinner with two favorite friends and lamented that we had to leave after two and a half hours to get the kids. We could have stayed all night, talking, sipping wine, laughing, making plans to do things together, to go places.

The power of friendship is no small thing. I know a lot of people, but the ones I can count as good friends, dear friends, people I want to have in my life forever, are a scant few. Because the ones you give your heart to, the ones deserving of such an immense gift, are few and far between.

This morning the moon is bright in a royal blue sky. Bare tree branches claw in the dark dawn, and I am content inside my warm house.

More than half of my family is still asleep for a few minutes more, and I am basking in the silence and reverence of knowing I am connected to good people.

It is really quite a gift, the thing we call friendship. As Helen Keller said, “Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.”

It’s the way you just want to hear the dip and swell of a familiar voice or that when that person arrives at your door, your day brightens immediately. Anais Nin characterized a friendship in this way: “Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”

Unfortunately, we live in an era of the illusion of friendship, when social networks make us feel as if we are so widely and importantly connected, even though we sit quietly, and alone, in front of our smart phone, tablet or computer screens. This reminds us even more the power of real friendships, and how rare they truly are.

A few years ago, a Psychology Today article reported on a Business Week study how companies were trying to capitalize on this illusion of friendship by encouraging their followers on social networks toward purchases, driven by this idea that the company is your friend. When I worked with my very first client, Hiller’s Markets, it was social media that inspired me to put together my strategy – but it was not social media alone that we used to connect with customers.

You see, the truth lurks deep within any strategy, and if you think you’ll click on a link or an ad on Facebook or Instagram and suddenly, magically, business will be born, you’re dead wrong. Some of my best endeavors involved planning in-store events for this client, giving opportunities for customers to truly engage with staff, not in an illusion of caring, but in a real consumer relationship that included concern for that customer’s well-being.

The fact is that a friendship must be real in order to receive its benefits. And nowadays, we have a pretty hard time navigating between what is real and what is put in front of our faces instantly, for other purposes.

I remind my clients now that slow and steady wins the race. Nothing happens overnight – not a friendship built nor business growth. And the power of deep connection is something that comes along occasionally, when integrity is present.

I am so grateful for our friends of last night – and the few others with whom I trust my heart. It is enough, and it is necessary, to have these life links to special people. To connect at the soul, to laugh deep in the throat, to know that our hearts have grown bigger for allowing these people in.

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