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Martha's big adventure -
The economoy of friendships - Marth Randolph Carr

A tough economy like the one we are smack in the middle of right now can make it tough to create new friendships.

The old ones from a job may have left right along with the health insurance. The pressing needs of home and financial security may be taking up so much brain space that it seems as frivolous as keeping the HBO to seek out new alliances.

However, this is exactly the antidote needed and can make financial success hit just a bit sooner. If we wait for better conditions to stop focusing on the dire situations, it can even make it harder to see the opportunities.

A good friend can distract us long enough so that a little gratitude seeps in and reminds us of what is still ours to enjoy. More importantly, growing a bigger circle of friends also increases how many opportunities will find you in the first place.

But unlike the work environment where it's necessary to get along with the guy in the next cubicle over even if he is absentmindedly humming an old show tune, seeking friends out of thin air can seem daunting.

When we're small, it's so easy to build a friendship. We don't know that it's important to be right and we're not dragging around a catalogue of events that need to be honored. We're OK with the basics and are much better at just being in the moment at hand.

If the kid across from us likes to roll in the dirt and swing really high till the chain makes that hard jerk and we do, too, it's a match. It doesn't even occur to us to also trot out the well-told stories about how our parents did us wrong and every other injustice we have hidden away just beneath the surface.

A child would think to themselves, "What does that have to do with recess?," and they'd be right on the money. As painful as this may be to hear, no one cares about your old stories and it paints a new picture of you that is clouded by a one-sided description of the past.

Instead, this is our collective opportunity at a blank slate and a chance to try out living in only the day we're been given. In other words, quit your whining and start looking for people who have the same interests as you do, like growing roses or running in 5k races. Put into a search engine the words, "roses, growing, club" and your hometown and see what pops up. Or, go old school and scour the fliers on the bulletin boards at the local grocery store.

If you can't come up with a single idea for a hobby, take a good long look at how devoted you've been to polishing the past to the exclusion of actually living. Then, drop the litany that has robbed you of more than you even realize just yet and start by volunteering. Pick something that appeals to you and just start.

If it turns out to be too boring or difficult, speak up for yourself and choose anew. You'll be given the opportunity for new friendships at each post and will discover what it is you like to do, once you take the focus off of a past that no longer exists. Then, when the ills of your life no longer seem like the hobby, you'll realize how much you really had all along that no economy can ever touch. More adventures to follow.

If you'd like to get involved in the 2009 America Challenge to raise funds for community-based charities, e-mail me at Martha@CagleCartoons.com, for more information. Together we're going to build stronger communities and empower ourselves.

Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at: Martha@caglecartoons.com.