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How to Make a Friend at Holderness: An Outdoor Chapel Sermon
Rev. Abby VanderBrug

By now, I hope you have most of the things you need to have a successful school year. I hope you know where Weld is, that you have a good backpack, your books, and class schedule. I hope you're psyched for your fall sport, and I hope, maybe most importantly, that you have a friend, or maybe the hope of having a friend, or that you know someone you would like to be friends with. 

How powerful is friendship? It’s immeasurable, I think. Researchers at the University of Virginia wanted to find out whether friendship influences how we approach the challenges of daily life. In an unusual experiment, researchers stood at the base of a steep hill on the university campus and asked students as they walked by to help them in an experiment. Some students were by themselves; others were walking in pairs.

Each student was given a backpack filled with weights equal to about 20 percent of their body weight. While the students may have had the impression they were going to have to climb the hill, the researchers simply asked them to estimate how steep the climb would be. 

Students standing alone thought the hill slant was steeper and thought it would be harder to climb while carrying the weighted pack. But students who were standing next to a friend thought the hill looked easier to climb and gave lower estimates of its steepness. The hill didn’t change, but their perspective did, all because of a friend standing next to them.

Sometimes, Holderness might seem like a steep hill that you are at the base of. There’s so much to juggle, our life here is full and awesome, but it’s busy and sometimes the year can feel long. Sometimes, the days are long, and sometimes they are not long enough. So it seems to me, after hearing this research, that the best way to make sure you get to the top of the hill (and to enjoy getting to the top of the hill), is to bring a friend on the journey with you. 

But how? How do you do that? How do you get a friend who makes the hill easier to climb? 

Here are five pieces of advice from the seniors on making friends at Holderness. 

  1. Embrace a shared experience. Things like O-Hike, being in a dorm together, on a team, at one of the Outing Club trips, or in a class with someone. At first, it’s super awkward, but sometimes you don’t even know you’re bonding with someone until it’s happened. So show up to everything you do with an open mind and positive energy. People will be attracted to that. And then making a friend is easy. 
  2. Don’t talk too much about yourself (at first); instead, ask them about themself.  Have a few good openers in your pocket to get someone talking. “I like your shoes” works; and so does “Do you play _____ fill in the blank”.
  3. You don’t have to be everyone’s best friend, but you can be a friend to everyone by doing the little things. Say hi on the path. Share your bagel with someone who skipped breakfast. Ask how their day is going. People like people like that. 
  4. Don’t expect too much out of a friendship in the beginning. If you want to be friends,  keep showing up. Checking in, asking them to hang out “in a non-creepy way.” 
  5. Branch out. Don’t be afraid to make new friends all over campus and with a bunch of random groups of people. You’ll have more in common with them than you think.

And, Number 6.  This one was from me - be wildly inclusive of everyone.  In Project Outreach, we learn to use the phrase “Will you join us?” I also like to use  “Let’s go together.” Here’s what I know about friendship: the easiest way to make a friend is to be a friend. It’s a lot easier to ask someone looking for a seat in Weld to sit with you than it is for that person to ask a group of people. 

Holderness. If the year gets tough, when the hill is steep, I hope you look around you and see your friends, see your teachers, your administrators, walking up with you. Here we are, the 2022/23 school year, let’s go together. 

Amen.

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