Editor’s Note: On this sixth day of our Advent blog series “Hidden Joys,” DC Service Corps volunteer Victoria Wangler reflects on the gift of friendship from the perspective of being a triplet.
A friend loves at all times. [Proverb 17.17]
“Friend.” “Friendship.” “Best friend.” “BFFs.” “Bestie.”
These are words that are used so commonly that we might forget what we truly mean. I don’t remember the first time that I heard the word “friendship,” but I imagine that I was quite young. I probably didn’t grasp the magnitude of what a friendship is, but I could take a good guess.
I am a fraternal triplet–one of three sisters that share the same womb, same birthdate, same Zodiac signs, and same smile. We are the only children in our family. I can’t imagine having older or younger siblings. It has always been the three of us–Tori, Bridget, and Gabby.
All my life, I’ve never been able to escape the power of threes: past, present, and future. Beginning, middle and end. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The three fates from Greek mythology. Peter denying Jesus three times. Brigid, the Celtic triple goddess. Clovers with their three leaves. I’m sure there are more. Perhaps you’ve thought of some examples yourself. I can’t not see the patterns everywhere: threes and trios and triplets.
It is said that two is company while three is a crowd. I have to disagree–three is the most comfortable number that I have known. From the beginning of our lives (and maybe even before that), my sisters have been my best friends. I can’t explain the power or strength of our bond. Many people ask me if we have some form of telepathy, to which I laugh and sadly respond with the negative. But there is something there. Something so deep and intrinsic that I cannot separate myself from it. Being their sister is as a part of my identity as the shape of my nose or the cadence of my voice. We have been intertwined, body and soul, since our beginning.
The Ancient Greeks believed that love exists in several different forms. Some text sources claim five, while others claim six or seven. The type of love associated with friendship is called platonic love. It is described as being mutually appreciative, open, accepting, warm, and honest. It cultivates a deep connection of mutual respect, trust, and admiration between those involved. It sustains, endures, and provides.
Having “built-in best friends” for the entirety of my life has made forming friendships a bit challenging. My sisters and I have always swam in the same circles, so we tend to be close with the same people. This is something I love about our closeness–our mutual good friends. From preschool through high school, it was like a two-for-one deal: in sports, school, and social settings, I got to hang out with my sisters and our friends. That’s a steal. When we left for our separate colleges and started navigating life without being by each other’s sides for the first time in 18 shared years of life, I struggled a great deal. My first year of college was marked by excellent grades and lots of extracurriculars, but also great internal strife and depression. I missed belonging with people who knew me well. I missed my sisters, my parents, and my dog. I missed my community.
Before college, I had the extraordinary privilege of never being without a friend (as well as two best friends) whom I could trust and depend on wholeheartedly. In my years at St. Bonaventure University, I had to relearn what it meant to be a friend. I had to develop a backbone and grit. I learned what type of boundaries I needed to keep myself healthy and happy and worked on enforcing them. I grew to know what I wanted and needed from a friend and when to subtly bow out of a close relationship that wasn’t sustaining or enduring myself and the other person.
I didn’t arrive at freshman orientation like a baby chick just out of her fragile shell; I had experience with lots of friendships growing up. But for the first time in my life, I had to define friendship without the context of having my sisters alongside me in a town where we grew up together and we were known. I had to cut it on my own.
My sisters are still my best friends. That will never change. (Sorry, Bridgie and Goob. You’re stuck with me.) What has changed, however, is my perspective on friendship.
The incredibly close, supportive, and loving bond I share with my sisters is something that I took for granted my entire life. I didn’t know any different until I did. I had no idea the power and privilege that I have held being able to call my triplet sisters my best friends. Love is a privilege: to love and to be loved is a gift not given freely or easily. As much as love in all its forms is a basic human need and instinct, not all humans are privy to receive and give love as they wish. There are many forms of poverty in our world. One such poverty is the lack of love, community, and compassion from someone’s fellow human beings.
All my life, I have been so amazingly privileged with love. I found my community at Bonaventure with friends, mentors, and peers who supported me completely and helped me foster my personal and academic growth. I have close friends from my childhood and my hometown with whom I still keep in touch, scattered as they are near and far. I have a wonderful extended family who cares for me so deeply and wants to be there for me. I have two awesome parents who love me and support me endlessly. Now, in the Casa San Salvador community in Washington, DC, I have found friendship, love, and support once more.
I will never not be grateful for the friendships in my life. I am thankful for the difficulties I went through in college my freshman year–without those times, I wouldn’t be able to recognize the true power and gift that friendship is. As a person of faith, I see everything as a gift from God. Nothing is guaranteed or certain. This life, this day, this breath–it is all on generous loan from the Creator who shaped each of us so lovingly. Friendship, too, is a gift from God. It is not a promise or a given.
Sometimes when I sit back and reflect on the goodness in my life, it brings me to my knees. I have so much gratitude for all the love that I have received in my life. I count myself so unimaginably lucky that I can count on more than one hand the people who love me. Some people can’t even fill up five fingers. There is a scripture verse that I hold close in my heart: To whom much is given, much will be required (Luke 12:48). Whenever I find myself despairing over tragedies or asking God how I possibly ended up with the gifts and privileges that I have in my life, these words come back to me.
For all the love that I have received, it is my honor and duty to offer that love to others. God, in all God’s infinite wisdom and charity, truly gave humanity a miracle: love is not a finite thing. It never runs dry, never runs out. We can love and love and love, and only be loved in return. I don’t believe there is anything more wonderful or inspiring than that reality.
I will be haunted by threes all my life, I think. Or perhaps it is I who conjure them in my life–pulling out those patterns that remind me of the love that I share with my sisters. Now, I have more patterns to tangle within: twos and fours and twelves and eights. The strings bright and joyful, finding their own places within the web. My heart caught up in the goodness, the abundance of it all–so many friendships that sustain, endure, and provide. So many beautiful friends who see me and behold me and trust me. It fills me up so much, I feel that I will topple over.
When I kneel to pray, all I feel is happiness.
When I open my mouth, all I can say is
Thank You, God.
Thank You for Your gift of friendship.