I live in a country where the distinction between friend and acquaintance is made rather readily. One often has several acquaintances but just a couple close friends. And once you’re a friend, you’re a friend for life. As an American who moved to Berlin six months ago, I am eager to earn such friend status among those in my closer circles. All of whom have another mother tongue and come from cultures different from mine.
I have two roommates, both happen to come from France. With one roommate, I take my breakfast at the same time. As though on cue, Nicole enters the kitchen as soon as I’ve put on the kettle. She cuts her loaf of bread on the rustic wooden cutting board, carefully measures her loose-leaf tea into her cup, and makes her bowl of Müsli. I spoon my coffee grounds into my French Press, pour my grapefruit juice, and spread peanut butter on my toast. Our movements are not rushed but rather intentional, like our breakfast choices. We’re aware of the time that draws near, when we need to be upon our bikes or seated in the S-Bahn, en route to school and work. But like every morning, it’s a gift to share this first part of the day together in this way.
Such a ritual carries a sacred simplicity that has come to define this new season for me. An easiness I have learned to embrace these last few months living alone in a new city, learning to speak a new language, making new friends. In the process, I have also learned something about people and what comprises a friendship. While making friends in a new language, I have grown less dependent on finding the right words and ceased to measure value by how deep conversation can go. I am learning that friendship goes beyond sharing the same mother tongue or culture. At some point, over homemade Quiche Lorraine and chocolate chip cookies or our weekly walks to the neighborhood grocery store, a friendship was forged.
When one moves to a new place without knowing anyone, I think it follows that she learns to pursue people. Or at least, I’ve had to learn this. I continue to grow amazed how so many others I meet in their twenties in this big city want the same thing: friendship and belonging. It’s a desire so fundamental to what it means to be human, to bear God’s image. And regardless of race, religion, or language spoken, it’s the most basic thing we share in common.
In our humanly-corporate desire to understand and be understood, we reflect the One who exists in selfless, surrendering Triune community. In our fear of loneliness, we prove our limits as created beings, thirsty for relationship and designed for dependence. And in the several different languages I hear spoken around me on a daily basis, I’m reminded of the One Who Himself crossed divine borders to break into our humanity so all could be restored to His perfect image. God’s image in us is what comprises my connections, whether friend or acquaintance. Sharing presence with one another in the most ordinary ways is a needed, non-superfluous gift. This gift of friendship-making that is more natural than I often think.
words by Danielle Germaine and photo by Kiana Dundore