“Back in Greece, your circle of friends grows larger and larger as you go through life. In America, the circle mostly shrinks or stays the same size.”
“Why do you think that is?”
“Time. Nobody has time here. It seems that every time you make a new friend, another friend has grown too busy or moved away.”
I include this quote from the “Humans of New York” Facebook page because it struck me when I first read it a few years ago. Humans of New York (HONY for short) catalogues New Yorkers in candid photos and quotes, and has since branched out to capture the stories of humans across the globe: a view of the world captured by different eyes.
While I read HONY posts almost daily, this particular story caught at my heart. And here I am two years later telling you why. Friendships should not dwindle as we go through life. This is backwards, America. We need our friends. We need our parea.
I think of parea as a posse of friends that enriches my quality of life. Put in today’s millennial terms, a Greek parea is the equivalent of a “squad.” They observe our sometimes-questionable decisions, making sure that we never live them down. They’re the ones who quickly say yes to the next crazy adventure. They dare to fight, from competitive games of tavli (backgammon) to bust ups over who’s paying for the group’s frappes. I share principles with my parea, and many, many laughs—they’re the ones who pick me up when I am knocked down. In time, our parea becomes our source of joy, lifelong companionship, and our support outside of family ties.
Greeks stay healthy not only by eating right and living an active lifestyle but by constantly surrounding themselves with a parea. Most cultures offer parea in spades. In Japan, where centenarians thrive, the “moai” serves this same function: It’s an extended family that doesn’t stop growing and never turns away from care.
Our own social groups shouldn’t stop growing either. Of course, in America, we’re pulled in so many directions and offered so many choices which tend to isolate rather than unite us. I say, if your parea has scattered, why not take a page from the Greeks whose social circles are alive and well? Greek functions happen every month in hundreds of cities, hosted by different organizations. Greeks in America find any excuse to reunite with their posse and expand them by making new friends along the way. Meet your parea outside of where you live, and I guarantee the size of your squad will expand. Why not have a parea that stretches to all the corners of America and around the world? HONY says it’s possible.
Take the time to connect, only connect, says the author E. M. Forster. And he did not have a smartphone. Get a bit Old World. Get together in person with your parea, with spoons and spatulas if possible, to stir up lifelong friendships.