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Cultivate Relationships

Meaningful connections require attention and energy!

This week’s post is built around the word cultivate. This time of year always reminds us how lucky we are to have so many wonderful people in our lives.

But relationships don’t just happen – they require a lot of work. You have to cultivate your relationships!

We always enjoy the holidays in our house, particularly the tradition of sending and receiving holiday cards. This year was even more entertaining for me because I handled most of the addressing and stamping the cards since I was at home and not working. Not long ago, I’d come across some commemorative stamp sets that I used to get for Christmas as a kid. In the interest of saving some money, and having a little fun, I made it my mission to find the most random stamps I could in those sets to go on this year’s envelopes. I’ll warn y’all now that we have a ton of them left, so you can expect this tradition to carry on for a few more years!

We tape all the cards we receive to our pantry door (see the picture below), and enjoy them throughout the holidays. It’s always so fun to see the creativity and bright colors of the cards, and the photos of our friends and family, and their children.

We have cards from our families, our families’ friends, our childhood friends, our college friends, our work friends, and friends we’ve made through our son’s friends at school and in sports.

The seeds for these relationships are planted at various points throughout our lives, but it’s up to us to give them everything that they need to thrive.

I have to admit that this is one area where I need to work a little harder. Honestly, there are a lot of people that I just need to pick up the phone and make the call to. If they’re local, I can do a better job of finding time to get together for lunch or coffee or drinks. And if they’re not here in Atlanta, I need to be more intentional about making that call to catch up.

It’s easy to find an excuse, but no excuse is worth letting meaningful relationships falter. Sure, we’re all extremely busy, our schedules don’t align as well as they might have before, and life just gets in the way in general. But you can’t place a value on friends and family.

Some of the people we hear from during the holidays are friends that we see or talk to (or text with!) on a regular basis, while some of the friends may be those people in our lives that we don’t keep up with as regularly, or maybe even only hear from during the holidays.

Just yesterday, I had a nice long conversation with one of my oldest friends while he was driving with his family to their next holiday destination. We were born on the same day, and have known each other since we were too young to even realize it. He’s always been great to take the time to reach out and check in on me and my family. We talk about Alabama football, work, some of our mutual friends, and what our kids are up to.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen each other, but it doesn’t feel that way because our conversations are meaningful and fulfilling.

And the beauty of it is that you don’t need a particular reason to call! Simply letting someone know you’re thinking about them can be incredibly uplifting.

I’ve always believed that we should do our best to add value to our relationships by identifying ways to be of service or benefit to the other person in the relationship.

I think we all know people who are more interested in what they can get out of a relationship – all take and no give – and maybe those relationships aren’t worth the investment.

Not long ago, I read this interesting article about a study that looked at our average number of friends at different ages in our lives.

The article cites a study that reveals your social circle is largest in your mid-20s. I can’t say that I’m completely shocked by this, especially when you consider the close friendships you may maintain from your days in college. This is also the time when weddings start to happen for many people, which provides a golden opportunity to stay in touch with your friends.

The study says that our social circle continues to decline as we age, at least until retirement. Much of this is the result of people identifying what is truly important in their lives, and working harder to maintain those meaningful relationships.

One of my wife’s favorite quotes is a line from a folk song that says “make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver the other is gold”. Take the time now to focus on those relationships in your life that are important to you. If they require some attention, make it a priority to give them the TLC they need!

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