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 Five Friends & Their Wee Jingle Alerts

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Five friends ranging in age from 74–87 are acting like teenagers, constantly reaching for their phones when their wee jingle alert notifies them of a message.

Some twenty odd years ago, by chance, the group began forming. Close friendships were developed, and a family of friends emerged who now call themselves the Five Friends Forever (FFF). Pre-pandemic, they enjoyed lunch outings and birthday celebrations with gifts, flowers, cards, hugs, and kisses. Voicing their opinions on hot current events stimulated their conversations.

One friend is an especially gifted writer. She shares her memories and wisdom. Her stories are remarkable, considered by some to be Garrison Keillor worthy. She gets to the heart of her real stories which include her growing up on a farm in Ohio as well as years of traveling and living around the world because of her husband's career. She artistically sets the stage and makes you feel like you are right there with her. The stories leave everyone grinning while giving their hearts an extra upbeat.

The FFF's share many views and values. They admire and encourage activism on current political issues. Two friends are past presidents of the Democratic Women's Club. Some of them took part in the Lee County Pulling Together organization, a group organized to improve communications between Blacks and Whites in the Fort Myers area. One extra special relationship formed when the two friends realized they were living a few hundred miles away from each other, growing up in the South in the late 50's. At that time, they would not have met due to segregation. A bonus is seeing each other at the All Faiths congregation gatherings.

These cherished times involved more laughter and gaiety than talking. Sadness at the death of a spouse, illnesses and physical challenges bring them closer together. Not apart. They rallied around the person going through the difficulty. Spending time at the hospital with a friend in recovery was standard procedure. Joining a friend waiting for AAA to come and fix a flat tire is considered fun. They are resilient. And the pandemic has not stopped them. They continue to deepen their connections in new and exciting ways.

The FFF's found an awesome way to counter the inherent pandemic changes that brought isolation, social distancing, and loneliness: texting! One friend is the group's technology expert, troubleshooting the problems they encounter. With her help, another friend upgraded from a tracking phone to a smart phone. Some were skeptical about texting. How could it possibly be a substitute for in person gatherings? To their surprise, they are learning more about each other and find the experiences delightful.

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Their wee jingle begins early with a good morning post welcoming in the new day. Then throughout the day, texts arrive announcing someone's daily joys and concerns, jokes, news and their opinions of it, snapshots of their families and even the weather. They recommend books, television programs, and news reports. The range is so enjoyable, and they never know from one day to next, what is going to pop up. A fascinating thing is that no one complains. Getting texts throughout their day is constant and everyone can be as engaged as they want to be. Although if someone misses a day or two, she is contacted to be sure there is no major problem.

One friend fully understands how people can text and be closer, more open, and supportive. What surprised her was getting to know more about everyone's families such as where they lived as children and how they met their significant others. They even get to see pictures of their sweethearts when they first met. This is eye opening as they delve into more intimate areas of their friend's lives.

Most posts throughout the day start with a short story. Then questions are asked expanding the conversations and teasing out more details. One friend's text shared her anxiousness for her sister and family who contracted COVID. She received replies like: Oldest sister? Do you have other sisters and brothers? This is a gift enabling them to reveal more personal bits of their life.

Some texts:

  • keep them informed about events of interest to go to or get involved in (lectures and where to get the Covid shot!).
  • set fine nonstop examples of worthy children's activities and shares ideas for involvement.
  • remind everyone the importance of family. One friend is more on–call for family obligations than the rest. Yet she is still so supportive.
  • show dependability in helping when needed.

Some posts involve using snail mail to complete the dialogue. One friend made Chicken in the Limelight and sent a printed copy to everyone. Learning about people's favorite holiday dishes and corresponding recipes brings much joy. Then discussing the recipe's origins evokes quite a bit of reflection. "That northern recipe sounds more like a southern one that I remember when I was growing up."

Every evening, a faithful good night text with a warming graphic ends the day. Each woman contributes in her own way. Love and kindnesses are felt as their friendships grow. A richness now exists within each one. It would not be there without the pandemic and their creative solution to staying connected. They do dream of getting together in person again. Lunch together would be nice!

Meanwhile, they are certainly Not Alone!

Excerpts also published in Fort Myers Community Press paper and All Faiths newsletter.

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