Having a circle of friends is by far one of the most prized blessings a person can have. Around the late 19th and early 20th Century, Carousels used to have a brass ring attached to the canopy. If a person could reach up and grab it, it could then be redeemed for a free ride.
But instead of a circle of brass, a Circle of Friends is worth much more than a free ride. I would even dare say it is more valuable than Rhodium. Rhodium today is a very rare and precious metal, with a price that tops even the finest gold.
What is a ‘Circle’ of Friends?
When you think of a circle in terms of people, I bet your mind automatically envisioned a group of women sitting in a group. All of them have some type of sewing or quilting project in their hands.
And you would be correct. Sewing circles have been recorded as far back as 1895. This is when a group of Mennonite women joined together to making clothing for the needy.
When the Titanic sank, Emily Goldsmith organized a group of women to sew clothing from blankets and cloth to make clothes for the survivors who escaped to the lifeboats wearing only their nightclothes.
The basis of a circle of friends lies within the foundation of a common ground. You may have several friends in your group who love a certain type of movie. As soon as one hits the cinema, you traipse as a group into the cool dark theater. Popcorn and Junior Mints are passed across the row.
This common ground doesn’t have to be a tangible thing. It can also be based on contrasts. I have one group of friends that is eclectic in personality. However, we all have a basic love of homesteading and living a simple life. Our approach to it may be different. However, each of us brings something different to the table, and we leave with a feeling of rejuvenation.
The Size of Your Circle
A circle of friends can be a small as three or four, or as large as there are people to fill it. When sewing circles became too large, they began to be referred to as Guilds.
However, Guilds were actually formed in the Middle Ages. Craftsmen grouped together to protect their towns commerce in areas that were not governed by laws.
Guilds are very popular today, and bring together people from all over the world. Name a craft, and you will most likely find a guild in its honor. According to Julie Baird of Generations Quilt Patterns, there are 2,250 quilting guilds in the United States alone.
Ready to Start your Own Circle of Friends?
Due to proximity, timing and other restraints, we can’t always join a current circle or guild. But that shouldn’t stop you from starting your own.
Talk with your current group of friends. What interest do you have in common? It’s okay to start small. Gather together with a few of you. Decide to meet at a certain time on an agreed upon day. As you continue to meet, you may be amazed at the interest that is cultivated with others.
When you choose your time, think in terms of once or twice a month. If several in the group work during the week, think about a Saturday morning, or a Sunday afternoon after church.
Determine the time limit for each meeting. If you are just visiting, then an hour should be plenty. If you are basing your circle around an activity, decide just how much time will be needed to visit and work on your activity.
What Make a Good Circle Focus?
Actually, your options are limitless. You can choose to focus on your community, such as caring for a flowerbed for a beautification project. Several groups of women have been using the plastic bags from grocery stores to make mats for the homeless.
If you have a shared interest in something specific, then begin with that. Here are a few ideas:
If you and some of your friends love to sew, this is a perfect way to start.
‘Sewing” is actually a broad term. You can narrow it down to one focus, such as quilting, or open it up to all the different mediums. Embroidery, quilting, needlepoint, cross stitch and smocking are a few. You can also include, or design a circle that includes knitting and crochet.
If there are other crafts you and your friends love, create your circle around it. Some crafts that would work well for a circle are mosaic, painting, macramé and basket weaving. I would love it if there was a spinning and/or weaving circle around here.
Determine what you love to create, and talk to others who do, too.
Now, this is one I could easily get into! For this one, it may be better to meet once a month, or even once a quarter. This gives everyone a chance to read the book, and be prepared to discuss it in the circle.
When organizing a book circle, keep in mind a couple of things:
1) Not everyone likes reading the same genres.
2) Reading outside your comfort zone helps you to grow.
With those two things in mind, organize the first meeting with choosing the books you will read for one year. Ask each person which genre they prefer, and to give recommendations.
One of the best ways to choose your books is to have everyone write down a book they have not read, but would like to. Toss them all in a hat.
Get a calendar and pencil ready. Then, pull one title. That will be the one you read first. Continue until all of the book titles have been pulled.
If at all possible, it is best if you have twelve people in your group. However, if you only have six, then have each member write down two. The same goes for two, three, or four. Just divide by 12 to know how many each person gets to contribute.
If you have an odd number of people, then choose as a group how that needs to be handled. The bottom line is, everyone needs an opportunity to not only read something they enjoy, but to read what others like, as well.
This type of circle has long been in play. Gather a circle of friends who love to cook or bake. Choose a recipe you want to try. Then start cooking!
Depending on how many are in your circle, you may want to assign each person to do a different thing. One can measure, one can saute, and one or two can stir the pot.
If you are making bread, consider having each person choose a recipe and bring the necessary ingredients. Create work stations on the counter, island or even the kitchen table. When the bread is in the first proofing (or rising) stage, enjoy a cup of coffee together and visit.
Admittedly, this type of circle of friends will take some serious thought and staging, but it can be done. And with each person able to bring home a portion of what was baked, they also leave happy!
Tea & Sympathy
This type of circle was brought home to me just this week. My friend, Amber, ended up going into the hospital for surgery. As a homesteader and homeschooling mom, she knew she was leaving her husband and family in a tough position.
Then she did something that is hard for all of us. She reached out to her circle of friends for help. Within moments, (probably less than five minutes), meals were organized. Help on the homestead was offered. Children were cared for, and her husband received stress relief.
While we were discussing this, she said, “I am the one that brings food and helps others. This time, I was feeling very low with my grief, angry of the lack of support … and I finally decided to open up. Express my needs and see if others would help. I am humbled and in awe that we have such an outpouring. When I lean in and allow myself to be vulnerable and express my needs, others know a tangible way. Leaving it up to interpretation is dangerously flawed.”
Most of us do have problems asking for help when we need it. And as Amber pointed out, leaving it up to others to ‘guess’ when we need help truly is dangerously flawed.
In order to alleviate this as much as possible, create a Tea & Sympathy Circle. Gather once a month to enjoy light refreshments, and allow each person to share where he or she is in their life’s journey.
Do they need someone to celebrate with? Offer up a toast. Are they going through difficult times? Ask how they need help, and then let the others in the group sign up or volunteer to help with one item.
And sometimes, we just need a safe place to vent. Just ears who are not only willing to listen, but also respect any confidences and privacy.
Start your Circle of Friends Today
No matter which type you want to create, having a Circle of Friends is a true joy. Whether you gather weekly, twice a month or monthly, you can always have something to look forward to. And as you gather, offer up gratitude for the amazing folks in your circle.
They are truly some of the best blessings you can receive.