Playground Perspective: January 2014

Over the holidays, I found myself thinking about friendship, and about how friends shape our possibilities.

Some suggest that our drive as humans, in large measure, is to complete ourselves, to self-actualize. One way that we accomplish this as we move through life is through relationships with others. At their best, our family and friends become mirrors that reflect our self back toward us, and windows that allow us to see new ways of being.

And so it was that I found myself walking around the lakes at Byrd Park with one of my oldest, closest friends, and our families. Matt and I became roommates just after college, and I have relied on his easy humor, deep counsel and level-headed perspectives on everything from dating to politics. We've walked the streets of New York, Washington, Cairo and Beirut together. He's been a sound mirror, and a provocative window. A short walk closer to home with Matt, his wife Kristen, his son Lucas and my own family reinforced the value of our friendship.

And what does this have to do with the playground, you wonder?

Matt's son, Lucas, will turn three this year. Thea will turn seven. Thea considers Lucas to be an important friend in her young life, and sees Matt and Kristen as part of her family. Watching Lucas and Thea running happily around the lakes -- or dangerously along the edge of the lakes, depending on your perspective -- established an element of continuity on my relationship with Matt that I'd never considered.

It also provided a window through which I could see our delightful daughter practice one of the more enduring roles in life -- that of an older sister. As Jack moves from infant to toddler this year, she will have every opportunity to embrace this new dimension of her own self.

Already, Jack has shown us that he is not his sister. For starters, he sleeps better. He's slightly less intense than his sister was at four months, and wears his happiness a bit closer to the surface.

How often do we pause to consider the ways in which our relationships shape us? Or, how easy it is to allow those relationships to unravel?

The tapestry that is, and is always becoming, our self can be woven from a handful of threads, or from thousands. Each day -- at home, at work, in our communities, and increasingly online -- we have endless opportunities to pick up another thread. And we have multiple opportunities to become a thread in someone else's tapestry.

Seeing Thea lean in with Lucas to see ripples of sunshine and reflection in the water is another reminder for me to pause -- and act -- in service to the relationships that have formed in my own life. "Who am I being," asks conductor Benjamin Zander, "that my children's eyes aren't shining?" Or the eyes of my wife, my mother, my closest friends, my clients and coworkers?

Investing time to be in relationship with others, you know, is simply an investment in your self.