We use that word so loosely today to describe anyone from a business contact, people we see at church once a week, exercise buddies, and even to neighbors we share a lot line with, but there is really little understanding for the word and what it has become over the centuries.
The word seems to have originated in the Germanic language and has had a long and varied history. The changes in what and whom the word stood for as the world entered the feudal period drastically shifted when the idea came to mean those whom a person could trust to watch your back in any fight or war. That definition carried on into the beginnings of our country's first steps and on into our expansion across a continent when the pioneers discovered a similar meaning for those who lived close by (Within 20 miles) and found that since they had no choice but to share the support system of people that just happened to be neighbors, friendships were created - often they were very strong relationships out of necessity.
Among those men and women who shared the prairies there were many close friendships that developed. Friendships that could weather calamity and distance. Quilting bees, barn raising, and dances were often the only times people who lived so far apart got together. Friends were made but they were not always the ones that might have made in a city full of people. In the end, they were friends that shared a love despite their differences, and often because of them as well.
The one thing these people had in common was a commitment to relationships that went beyond personal differences and focused on a strong respect for the rights of those people which allowed them to simply be themselves. If we are honest we have to admit there are few of us who believe exactly alike. We are not identical in most of what makes us who we are and logic suggests that most of us certainly didn't agree on everything, then or now.
So why the is there such a strong I'm right and you're wrong attitude that seems to be splitting even the strongest relationships today? We certainly aren't identical pieces in this puzzle we call life, so why is it a must that we believe everything the same to become, or remain friends? There really are no easy answers to that question. We usually believe as we do as adults because of the way we were taught and raised. Life has never created identical cookie cutter people and we seem to have lost an important part of who we are because of it. The ties that bind us together will only win out over our world's present beliefs in the end if we accept the diversity the world has to offer. Changing what we believe is not a necessity - changing how we deal with those who think differently is.