A few years ago, a colleague mentioned to me that he was going to meet with David Brooks, the New York Times columnist and author of some of my favorite books. I gave my colleague an assignment: “Ask him what he would do with several million dollars. What does he think the world really needs right now?”
A few weeks later, David published his answer in the New York Times, which really surprised me. His answer surprised me, too: “… friendship is not in great shape in America today [so] … I’d try to set up places that would cultivate friendships.”
Why? Friends help each other make good decisions. They bring out the best in each other. They hold each other accountable.
Good friends help each other become better people.
But in what sort of place could such powerful relationships form?
“I envision a string of adult camps or retreat centers,” wrote Brooks, “ …to spark bonds between disparate individuals …”
Hmm … that sounds a lot like what happens in the Frio River Canyon! The beauty of the place, the hospitality that is possible there, the spiritual and personal reflection people experience there—everything about the place helps guests build deep relationships. From Echo Valley to Headwaters, the Canyon has come to embody the ethos of the Foundation because it nurtures the human spirit so clearly and distinctly. It gives people space to plant the seeds of deep friendship, whether over a weekend retreat or an unforgettable two weeks of youth camp.
I’ve been working in our foundation for nearly thirty years now, and I have heard so many individuals, families, and couples say the deepest relationships of their lives began in the Canyon. They met their best friends there. They’ve been in each other’s weddings. Friendships that began at Foundation Camp or LLYC or Laity Lodge endure.
This is how you transform a community. Wherever you are, cultivate friendships, one person at a time. Get to know the people in your little corner of the world. But don’t stop there. Look beyond your closest neighbors to people who look different, who make less money, who might vote differently or worship differently or view the world differently. If you need a place to do it, bring them with you to a Laity Lodge retreat or Family Camp.
Deep friendships can be the start of something bigger. As you read these stories, I hope you’ll be able to see our focus on relationships as a thread that’s woven throughout. Brooks is right—real relationships can be the foundation of the healing that our world needs.