“Hi my name is Leilani,” I held out my hand to my new roommate. She looked at me, giggled and shook her head.
“What’s your name?” I asked. She looked at me blankly. And I repeated my question. She shrugged her shoulders and got the other girl who was sharing our suite in the room adjacent to our bathroom.
“I was just asking her name,” I told the girl. She laughed, looked at her and said, “Hiroko. Her name is Hiroko.” I was puzzled as to why Hiroko needed this girl to tell me her name. “Hiroko doesn’t speak English,” the girl said.
My heart sank because my new roommate didn’t speak any English. I was 17-years-old and my family lived on another island. I later discovered that almost everyone on campus, except for Anita, spoke English. There were a few American students but we were scattered in the crowds of Japanese students at Hawaii Loa College. This was going to be a long summer.
Hawaii Loa College, or Hawaii Pacific University, sits across from the beautiful Koolau Mountains on the north side of Oahu. With a daily rain shower, the mountains are a verdant green. The campus was stunning but this was the loneliest time of my life.
I was friendless. My dormitory was full of girls speaking in Japanese. I tagged along with them when I could but having to speak slowly or when they laughed at my feeble attempts to speak Japanese was painful. I cried every night.
Those lonely months taught me how to make friends when I was friendless. I still cried every night but I purposed in my heart that I was going to be friendly and take a risk with people. Here’s how I turned a friendless season into a friendship.
#1 I volunteered. I was playing in an amateur soccer league and the coach told me that an organization needed volunteers to work with adults with disabilities. I volunteered to play volleyball with adults with disabilities every Wednesday in Honolulu. I had a blast and met some other people who would became lifelong friends.
#2 I got out of my comfort zone. I was already out of my comfort zone living with students that didn’t speak English. I took Tae Kwon Do because a lot of the other students were into martial arts. I got a great work out and met some amazing people.
Emily Lohman, an entrepeneur says she forced herself to go to events by herself. “I forced myself to go to events by myself. Totally by myself. And walk up to people and introduce myself. Dog park. Art Museum Happy Hours. Kona Gril Bar. Kona Gril Bar was NOT a good plan and I do not recommend that one.”
Jennifer Straub, like Emily, took ownership of her situation. “I remember waiting on people to invite me to be their friend. It never happened. I finally got a major revelation when I watched my young daughter walk up to people in excitement to engage them in conversation. I was deeply convicted and realized the way I had been waiting on people to befriend me was not who God called me to be. I realized my passivity was due to hurt and pain from friendships gone wrong in my past. I decided if I was going to have friends I needed to be one first. I needed the innocence of my daughter. So, I stopped waiting around and I made myself walk up to people to talk and I started inviting people to my house. Before I knew it, fear was broken off of me and I now have the best friends I could have ever asked for. I’m so glad I decided to take action! My life is full of meaningful friendships and fun!”
#3 I looked at this season as a temporary season of loneliness. I decided to be a friend when I could. I can’t say I had an exciting social life but I was never bored. I filled my time with volunteering, exercise and work.
Sharon Boomer initiated friendship many times when she moved homes or to a different workplace. “Every time I moved to a new base job or church. I have had to learn all over again to smile again to be willing to reach out and hug someone again to let someone into my world again. I have many people I guess who would be casual friends,but God had richly blessed me with precious true life long lady friends who I call on for prayer for comfort for joy and he is building that circle for me yet again.”
Seasons of friendlessness are universal. We all go through those seasons and we can choose to weather the loneliness by being a friend to someone else and forcing ourselves out of our comfort zone. I’ve lost contact with those Japanese girls that I met at Hawaii Loa. But I still remember their laughs, smiles and warm acceptance even though we didn’t speak the same language. Being a friend is a universal language that we all need to be more fluent in.