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Just Us: The Power of Informal Support Groups

Suri Brand

We are five — the four of us sitting in the courtyard of the bagel shop and the tardy Shevy. There is a chill in the air, but the sun is overhead — a perfect morning for hot chocolate and a buttered sesame bagel. I savor the hot sweetness as I sip my drink and feel myself relaxing.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

We met while on vacation a few years before — one of those three-day women’s getaways. No husbands, no children, just women of different ages and backgrounds taking a sorely needed break.

The five of us found ourselves sitting at the same table in the dining room, swimming in the same end of the pool, and meeting in the lobby for late-night Boggle.

By the third day, I realized that we had found something rare. In the past few days, I had formed friendships such as I hadn’t had since my seminary days. And I wondered why. What was different—aside from the chance to relax—that allowed us to form such a strong bond in so short a time?

The answer didn’t dawn on me until I went home and picked up my life’s routine again. I realized that our connection was unique because it was formed on common ground that was independent of outside factors.

We women fill so many roles—wife, mother, daughter, daughter-in-law, and, often, breadwinner. And we define ourselves by these roles. When we attend a wedding, we go as “Mrs. So-and-so.” When we are shopping, we are “Shira’s mommy.” At a family simchah, we are “Debbie’s sister,” or “Mrs. Schwartz’s daughter.” This is valuable; after all, it’s important to know who you are and where you fit.

But what happens when you are out of your normal environment? What if you meet people who don’t know you in the context of wife, mother, or co-worker?

You then have the opportunity to be just you and connect with other women simply because your personalities click — not because you’re neighbors or because your husbands are chavrusas.

Although the five of us had spent only three days together, and our neighborhoods and ages were diverse, we became, and have remained, fast friends — a proof of the tried-and-true Chazal that friendships independent of outside factors are the ones that endure.

At first, we got together a couple of times and met again at the next getaway, but our busy lives and disparate locales didn’t allow for more. Then, a few months ago, each of us was going through particularly challenging periods. Shevy’s burn accident, sudden financial strains, difficult children, a new business to run, made us suddenly realize that our get-togethers were not a luxury. We decided to meet regularly, once a month.

 

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