White Polar Bears

In a study that was conducted in Texas (from “Happiness” by R. Layard), 900 women were asked which social company they most enjoy. They were highly gregarious – preferring friends even more than husbands and kids and almost any company to being alone. Only the boss’s company was considered worse than being alone. The conclusion is simple – to increase your level of happiness, just invest in friendships.
In this respect, listen to this small, recent personal experience: 

I like to travel and once in a while I like to try more adventurous trips. An advertisement for a cruise to the Arctic Circle to watch polar bears caught my attention and I decided to join. An American friend of mine heard about my plan and got excited as well. So, two men in their mid sixties found themselves in an unusual Arctic rendezvous.  

It was not easy to get there. I had to fly to Oslo through Amsterdam, stay overnight in Oslo and then fly north additional 500 miles to Spitsbergen Island. I flew from Israel; he flew from USA, arriving one day ahead of me.  

Midnight, I’m sleeping overnight in Oslo and my cell-phone rings. I woke up with a bit of a panic – Victor, my friend, was on the line. “I arrived yesterday to Spitsbergen, Shuka,” he said in a sad voice. “With nothing else to do, I joined a tour to dig for fossils on a glacier. Unfortunately, I slipped, twisted my knee and tore my ligament. I was evacuated by helicopter to the local hospital, which is un-equipped and therefore, they will fly me to Tromso, mainland Norway, to be operated on. I can’t join the cruise, my leg hurts and it hurts me even more that I ruined our plans. And by the way,” he goes on “my mobile phone doesn’t work and I’m calling from the cell-phone of a generous nurse here.”  He hung up while I was still not fully awake.  

Early next morning, on my way to catch the flight to Spitsbergen, I started to digest yesterday’s call. I gambled and redialed the number he called from yesterday and luckily enough the nurse was answering: “He’s still suffering from pains and he fell asleep only early this morning.” She said. She didn’t know when they will fly him out since it still snowing there (August!). I told her that I’ll be landing around noon hoping to be able to see him before his flight leaves.
During my flight to Spitsbergen I was gathered in myself wondering what I should do. “Should I keep the original plan by myself? How will he manage by himself?” I pondered.

Around 14:00 o’clock I landed in the miniature airport of Spitsbergen. Like in a movie, in an unexplained timing, a small ambulance approaches and stops near me. I knock on the darkened window, the door slides and Victor smiles at me. He lay on a stretcher, a bit pale and said: “Go ahead with the plan, Shuka. Have fun for both of us. I’ll be OK, just…give me a book to read.” I asked the paramedic to allow me to join their flight, but he politely refused: “The airplane is too small.” Later on I found out that my friend instructed him to gently refuse. I handed him a book, the door slid, and they rushed on toward a small air-ambulance.  

Much confused I called my wife seeking for advice. No answer. I called my son and felt relieved when he answered. “Not a simple decision,” he said. “However, if I were you, I wouldn’t board the ship. We were raised on the value that we don’t abandon friends.” I loved his answer. I turned back to the SAS counter (local airline co.) and bought a one way ticket to Tromso. My wife then returned my call. I told her what happened, not mentioning my conversation with our son. She told me very decisive and simple: “Go and keep an eye on your friend.” I cherished her advice and I felt relieved.  

At 4:00 in the morning, full daylight in Spitsbergen and the ship had already far sailed, I boarded on the flight to Tromso. Two hours later I was in the hospital. Early in the afternoon my friend underwent operation, some metal pieces were put into his knee, and five days later – on crutches with his leg stretched and casted – I escorted him to his flight to the USA.
We didn’t have the chance to watch white polar bears… we saw white bed sheets instead… but we had a good chance to stare closely at the white of the eyes of friendship.

And as I already mentioned, close friendships increase the level of happiness. There are friends for sports and beer, friends in couples, friends in groups and friends one-on-one, more intimate and less intimate – and it is heart-warming. Invest time in keeping such relationships alive, invent gatherings and reunions – it is a good investment, I promise.
And by the way… allow such space for your spouses to develop their own friendships, and their level of happiness will increase as well…

(Enjoy the 2 pothos below, in the blog)  

Thursday is the Jewish New Year, so Happy New Year to all our Jewish friends
Fireworks (63)
Shuka, Tuesday, September 7, 2010


The "duo" are touring the hospital in Norway after the operation


...and this "duo" we saw only on Google

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