Finding the Solid Joy of Friendship

Written by midtown campus parent, Jamie Cain

For much of human history, philosophers, theologians, and storytellers alike considered friendship a core human virtue. Aristotle wrote about it in Nicomachean Ethics, Cicero wrote a treatise about it, and Aelred of Rielvaux baptized Cicero in Spiritual Friendship. But as the world became modern, friendship fell on hard times. C.S. Lewis observed in The Four Loves that friendship was “becoming quite marginal; not a main course in life’s banquet; a diversion; something that fills up the chinks of one’s time.” Today, our hectic lives (coupled with the restrictions of a pandemic world) push friendships further to the fringe. In order to return friendship to the center, to see its benefits to us as human beings made in God’s image, we need to be prepared to work and to make some sacrifices. Sometimes, help for that comes from surprising quarters.

We’ve learned something about this in the last year. Our family started thinking about a move from Atlanta, Georgia, to the Midwest in December 2019. I visited with Kristi (who already had a job in OKC), and I interviewed for an academic position at a classical school in Wichita, among other opportunities. When I decided on a non-academic job in OKC, our focus turned to house- and school-hunting. So Kristi attacked the house quest via Zillow, and I used a second interview trip to visit schools in OKC.

We were finishing up thirteen years at a classical school we helped build (I was the headmaster) and thought a move would be a good time to review the other educational opportunities in a new city. Because we remain committed to private Christian education, I made a list of schools I found online and started making calls. The headmaster in Wichita had recommended we check out The Academy, so I arranged a visit to Midtown for my last school tour.

We hadn’t settled on an area of town yet, so I visited schools all over the city—large and small. And after a couple tours, we were leaning in one particular (non-classical) direction. I decided to go ahead and keep my tour appointment at The Academy just to cover our bases.

I’m so glad I did! That encounter positioned us to learn some powerful lessons about friendship over the next few months.

After touring the Midtown campus, during which we met Coach Mac, I called my wife and said, “No question–this is what we want.” I felt confident that The Academy could be a great place for our two school-aged kids (our oldest graduated in May 2020 and would be in college). We brought them to visit, and both confirmed our initial impression.

Then March 15 rolled around, the novel coronavirus swept into our Georgia town, and weirdness ensued. In addition to at-home schooling, cancelled trips, and a COVID-19 graduation (thankfully, in person), lockdown made for some very rocky goodbyes to longtime friends. We were concerned about how our freshman would be able to transition.

But we watched as he began to make friends—even from a distance—with members of the basketball team. Coach Mac invited Owen to join their calls and GroupMe, and he started playing video games online with a couple friends. By the time we came to OKC in June, to finalize our house-hunting, Owen was ready for basketball camp and had a ready rapport with a few of his teammates. Once we were all in town, getting into Academy life—while plenty busy!—provided us with some regular interaction and the beginnings of friendship.

C.S. Lewis knew, as we do, that friendships take time and effort to grow. Making friends is more farming than fabrication, more cultivating than creation. But a community like The Academy has certainly helped to pull some rocks out of the ground and get the seeds started.