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The Company We Keep

Stop just one minute. Think. Reflect on this question, "Who do I keep company with on a regular basis?" And then wonder. Is it what you're doing when you're together? Or is it something you experience internally when you're together? What is contributed to your life through your companionship? How is your vitality increased through your association with others?

Much may be said about the company we keep. Parents and teachers and other concerned adults sometimes express worries about teenagers and young adults falling in with "the wrong crowd." Generally, that means a group of peers who engage in dangerous and destructive behaviors. And, of course, that's a valid concern for someone who cares about the flourishing of a child, student, relative, or friend. It may be equally upsetting, however, if a child, student, relative, or friend doesn't keep company with others at all, but prefers isolation and solitude... or the company of books, animals, computers, or games instead of peers. It's one of the slipperiest slopes we navigate while we walk this earth. Our time here is not infinite. Our energies are not limitless. To whom do we devote these precious resources? With whom do we keep company?

We all likely have a range of acquaintances, friends, and deeply trusted companions. But it might be revealing to reflect on the population of that range. Do we give most of our time to people who need us? Do we share with others who only think like we think? Are we drawn to those who make us feel accepted and valued? Will we devote more energy to a relationship we believe will be advantageous for us? Here's one simple way to reflect on our affinities and allegiances among acquaintances: imagine entering a room filled with people you know, some well and others not so well; by whom would you choose to stand or sit? How might you understand your choice?

If we were to describe the company we keep, what would we say? How is our vitality increased by the others of our kind with whom we spend time and to whom we devote energies? Stop just one more minute. Think. Reflect on this question, "Who's seeking to keep our company on a regular basis?" And then wonder. What do we contribute to the lives of others with whom we keep company?

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