The Twelve Greatest Things Series–Friendship

Twelve Greatest Things In Life

Twelve is a number that stands out strangely in sacred literature: Twelve Jewish tribes – twelve disciples – the gates and foundations of the New Jerusalem are numbered as twelve. Twelve months in the year – “a dozen” is a common unit of calculation. So why not twelve “greatest things” in human life?

–The Editors, The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, June 1926

Hello, again History Lovers,

Today’s post is the sixth installment in the Twelve Greatest Things in Life series. The topic is friendship.



I have been called the great sheltering tree in a selfish world. Some have said that I am the wine of life. I know that I am one soul in two bodies. I am Love without alters, vows and veils. Only those whom I unite are really married. Love dies where I do not enter. No man and woman can live as God intended unless I blend into high and holy meaning the attractions between them. Love’s desire is the hot flame that burns first about the wood in the grate. I am the lasting embers that warm the household.

While my wings may not seem so beautiful as those of Love, they sustain me longer and hold me closer to the earth. I am rarer than what is commonly called Love, for Love begins and, alas! Too often ends with the body. I am the high quality of the soul.

I teach people how to show their best natures to others. I am, in truth, Nature’s greatest masterpiece. There is no literature worthy of the name through whose warp I do not weave my golden woof. I knitted together the souls of David and Jonathan, of Damon and Pythias. Heaven can send to two souls no greater gift than me.

The young, because they are young, cast me away lightly. They think I am as cheap as dirt. They confuse me with Acquaintanceship and with Attraction. Those in middle life grow more careful about me. The aged treasure me above rubies.

Men may nod to thousands; they may speak to hundreds; they may commune with tens; thrice lucky is the man who at sixty years can count three real friends.

I hold the cup called Solace at the feast of life. I keep both joy and sorrow from becoming solitary. I know the alchemic secret whereby I can make infirmities sweet when mutually borne. I teach men that no load in life is unbearable when a friend’s shoulders share the burden.

I am the chief ornament of any home. Every material adornment is but a tinseled gewgaw unless I am there. Oh, that men were wise enough to keep down the weeds from the paths that lead to the houses of their friends!

I am not cheap. Really, I am as expensive as Love. I demand long years of loyal service and the bearing of many burdens. In return, I give to men joys that are worth as much as health, wealth, or labor.

If you give heed to my words of wisdom, you never will slight me, never use me for selfish ends, never lie about your intentions, bicker or quarrel over gain, or lead me tied into the marketplace. If you do these things, I shall quickly desert you.

The ancients who believed that “wine, women, and song” were the most precious gifts of the gods, were wrong. Unless I am present in all the associations of human beings, wine inebriates, women destroy and song lends itself to inhumanity.

My roots live only in the soul of mutual self-respect. Well, did Emerson say of me:

“A day for toil, an hour for sport,

But for a friend, a life’s too short.”

In the Book of Books, it is written of me, “Thine own friend and thy Fathers’ forsake not,” The Master said to those who loved him, “I call ye not servants, but friends.”

To those who would really live, I give this recipe. I guarantee it shall never fail you if you follow it: “IF YOU WISH A FRIEND, BE ONE.”–Dr. John W. Holland


The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, June 1926, Page 328; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.