A few weeks ago, Time magazine had an article in its science section entitled, “Friends with Benefits.” The contention of the article was that human beings are not the only ones who are capable of making lasting friendships that benefit both parties, animals do it as well!
I loved the story of Hare and Ellington, a pair of chimpanzees in Uganda. “Hare and Ellington weren’t related, yet when they went on hunting trips with other males, they’d share prey with each other rather that compete for it. If Ellington reached out a hand, Hare would give him a piece of meat. They would travel through the forest together, staying in touch through the foliage with loud, hooting calls. They’d always be yakking at each other.”
Their friendship lasted until Ellington died. Suddenly Hare changed from a sociable, high-ranking ape to a social drop out. He seemed to go into mourning.
And apes aren’t the only species that make lasting friendships. Apparently horses pick friends, groom each other and rest their heads against one another. “Their heart rate goes down during these quiet moments.”
Baboons that have these kinds of friendships are four times as likely to survive to age 15 as those who do not. Male dolphins form friendships when they are young. Young females cooperate with each other but when they get older the bonds deepen and they stick to one or two close friends.
The research into these patterns is fascinating. But mostly I was interested in how it relates to the kinds of friendship we humans crave. “Studies have shown that people with close social networks have lower blood pressure, lower levels of stress hormones and more robust immune systems than those without.”
A study by Brigham Young University found that poor social networking can “raise the risk of premature death as high as that from a smoking habit and even higher than that from obesity.” That is a huge statement.
Bottom line, you and I need friends. Specifically, we need a close circle of one or two DEAR friends. I like to call them the “Two AM Crowd.” These are the people that you would not hesitate to call at 2:00 am if you had a need. They wouldn’t even look at the clock. Your voice and the need it expressed would be all they cared about.
That is what the words of Ecclesiastes 4:10, 12 are trying to convey: “If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up. Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
So look around this week and make sure you have a pal swimming very close along side!
By His Grace and for His Glory,
Sherry L. Worel