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A True Friend

Updated: Jan 20

"A true friendship is defined by knowing someone has your back, no matter what. A good friend will watch out for you and ensure you are safe, feel supported, and are loved. A good friend will never purposely lead you into making decisions or taking actions that aren't good for you. A true friend will always have your best interests at heart." ~ LIA MILLER, M.A., MPA, MSW

Ever since I started with FNLC back in the fall, I've been thinking about what it means to be a "friend" of northern Lake Champlain. I've worked with many friends groups throughout my conservation career. Some friends groups are like the Friends of the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge, where the group supports a larger organization by providing programming and outreach to the surrounding communities. Others, like the Friends of the Winooski or the Friends of the Mad River, focus on conservation issues in a defined geographic area, filling in the gaps where the federal, state, or local governments are in need of support to meet national and local conservation goals. That's one way to see friends groups - through an organizational lens. What I think is even more powerful in our work is to strip it all back and start to think about what it means to be a friend. What are the qualities of a good friend? And how can we think about our work through the lens of friendship?

The definition above from writer Lia Miller reveals that friendship is about feeling safe, supported, and loved. When I apply this definition to our work throughout the watershed here in northern Vermont, I see a number of parallels to our work as the Friends of Northern Lake Champlain. At its core, it means we are in a relationship. Our founders recognized that we have a relationship with the lake. We rely on the lake for recreation and relaxation; it's a driver of the local economy, and the lake can affect the health and safety of individuals and communities. As we've gotten to know the lake and its systems, we've nurtured a relationship with the broader watershed, reaching across the land to the farms, fields, and forests in our communities. We care deeply about these places, and for some of us, we see the watershed and the landscape as something that is not separate from us but as a true friend that's part of our daily lives.

Because we care deeply, we've come together to find ways to make sure that the lake, as our friend, feels safe, supported, and loved. This is where we can begin to dig deep into the values of friendship and apply them to our work. Here are the top five values of friendship:

  1. Empathy - having an understanding of a friend's experiences, emotions, and hardships

  2. Loyalty - no matter how tough it gets, your friendships are a priority

  3. Trust - mutual trust allows us to share struggles, challenges, and problems

  4. Honesty - speaking openly from the heart and telling the truth, good and bad

  5. Respect - showing admiration while honoring boundaries and limitations

I invite you to look at this list and think about how this might apply to our water quality work. How do these values apply to our relationship with the lakes, streams, rivers, and brooks in our communities? How does this shift your thinking or root you deeper into the cause? I also invite you to look at this through the lens of the relationships we need to form with each other in order to care for Lake Champlain. If we are truly to be friends of northern Lake Champlain, how can we stretch into showing each other empathy, loyalty, trust, honesty, and respect in this work together?

Connection is the antidote to destruction. Coming together, listening about the challenges that we have as communities within a watershed, respecting and trusting the science, and showing up even when it gets hard and change seems so far off will strengthen and prepare us for the opportunities ahead.

This year, I'll hold this thought of friendship and the values of being a good friend in the forefront as we move forward with our work. I invite you to reach out and reconnect to reinvest in FNLC, whether it's by showing up to our programs, volunteering at one of our fundraising events, or making a donation.

There are so many things to be excited about this year with FNLC! We've just welcomed a new Project Coordinator, Caroline Foley - you can read about her on our blog. We've got some new programs on the way to help you connect with the watershed, and we'll have some new services to announce later this year to help you make a difference right in your own yard or community.

Let's nurture and strengthen our friendships for the lake this year!

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