“It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him” (Genesis 2:18). From the beginning of human history God recognized our need for companionship and friendship. For centuries since then, people have experienced the need to relate peacefully with others and have enjoyed establishing and maintaining friendships. Friendship involves caring, helping, communicating, and sharing experiences. The Old Testament Book of Sirach provides us with much wisdom about true friendship:
A kind mouth multiplies friends,
and gracious lips prompt friendly greetings.
Let your acquaintances be many,
but one in a thousand your confidant . . . .
A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter;
he who finds one finds a treasure.
A faithful friend is beyond price,
no sum can balance his worth.
– adapted from Sirach 6:5-6; 14-15
Young children learn about friendship from parents, teachers, and classmates. As their social relationships broaden beyond the family, the children discover the joy of being together with classmates and neighborhood friends. Communication and social interaction help promote friendship and also initiate an awareness of the needs and feelings of others.
As a catechist you can help your students form friendships by establishing a relationship of trust with them and by providing them with opportunities to play and participate in peer-group activities. At the same time, listening to the children's concerns, showing delight in their joyous moments, and offering deserved praise will positively influence their self-esteem as well as contribute to their success in relating well with you and the other children in the class.
Friendships in early childhood can serve as a starting point for the children's friendship with Jesus through prayer and an introduction to the command he gave to those who want to be called his friends: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).
As the children join you in praising and thanking God for their friends, recall what Jesus said when praying together: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).
Then take time to pause and create a quiet and mysterious moment of silence for the children. (Pause.) Ask them to close their eyes. (Pause.) Tell them to think about their friend, Jesus. (Pause.) And then, invite the children to talk to Jesus in their hearts about how to be more kind and helpful to others . . . Amen.