Vanysha Sahota from Touchstone’s Community Development Service wrote this article to mark International Friendship Day – and to talk about the role of friendship in personal and family life.

When I think about the word ‘friend’, images of certain people take over my mind along with memories of good and bad times. Many people who have passed through my life, I have called my friends, from nursery and primary school through to university and now work. I once heard a quote: “We have three types of friends: Friends for a reason, friends for a season and friends for a life time”. To me this doesn’t mean any one friend has been less important than others, every friend has had a role in my life and given me support along the way.
I also think about my family members and what defines my relationship with them. I have two brothers, one older and one younger, we grew (and fought tirelessly) together as siblings but as time goes on and we begin to lead our separate lives with other people, I feel the relationship we hold resembles that of my ‘best friends’. We do not need to be in each others’ company to keep our friendship alive, nor do we need to communicate regularly, however we have this innate ability to hold each other up and pick up from where we left off! We pull together in times of need to support each other as a unit.
Another person in the unit is my mother, I think back to the period between the ages of 15 and 20, the idea of my mum being my best friend was alien and so far removed from the feeling of “get away from me!” that I had. Nearly ten years on and there is nobody I can think of that would be more deserving of the title of my best friend. I’m not sure what exactly has changed, but the older I grow and our relationship becomes more and more equal, the more I realise that my mother is the best friend I ever had.
Of course, I have those best friends who have been so close, been through thick and thin over the years that it seems almost difficult to call them friends, they are so much more than that; they are family. It feels as though these friendships were destined to be. So much so that I would like to share a little story…
My family were one of the Asian families that migrated from East Africa and back there my Grandad worked in the Post Office. One day his colleague and friend, Mr M, informed him that he was selling his car and my Grandad chose to buy the car from him. Mr M had a son who cried and cried the day my Grandad went to collect the car from his house, my Grandad assured this little boy that he will keep in touch so that he would see the car again. Years later the boy all grown up, both families moved to England, unfortunately because of the distress associated with the time and the way in which families settled here, the families lost touch. Mr M and his family settled in Leeds and my family in West London, however my Mum married into a family living in Leeds. 30 years later at the age of 14, I met a girl in my year group at school who I absolutely disliked, but for some reason she was not getting the hint and after a year or so (and her persistence) we became friends. The closer we became the more often she would spend time at my house and slowly began to integrate into my family. One day my Grandmother, who has a fantastic memory, asked my friends what her surname was. On hearing the name my Grandmother became curious and began to dig deeper, eventually the jigsaw was complete and it turns out that my friend was the daughter of the little boy who cried at the sale of his father’s car. My friend rushed back and told her Dad all about our family and the very next day, he came with my friend to visit my Grandma and Grandad, who was very ill at this point and passed away shortly afterwards. They spent time catching up, laughing, joking and reminiscing about life in Kenya. Today neither my Grandad nor my best friend’s Dad are with us but a friendship established 3 generations ago still lives!
Whoever your friends are, it’s worth stopping for a minute on this International friendship day to reflect on the friends that have come and gone as well as those who have always been there and lastly those friends who are under the guise of a different title. Think about what it is to be a friend and how friends can quite often be the ones to prop us up in our darkest days of need.
Happy International Friendship Day to you all!