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The Company We Keep

In preparation for the release of a new Pathways to Possibilities book, the Well-Being Planner: Practices for Self-Reflection & Discovery, I found myself curating a list of questions readers could ponder. (You can obtain a free digital download of the list here:

I came up with a total of 57 questions. A large list, but it is nice to have a few easy questions to choose from before you tackle the harder ones. Of all the questions I proffered, there was one question that kept vying for my attention:

What does the company I keep say about me?

My immediate reaction was “Not much—they are all dead.” Clearly, I was missing something.

I moved on to thinking about my friends. In our social media focused world of ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ where intimacy is measured in the hundreds and thousands, I pale in comparison. I have a scant 5 friends. Strike 2. I consider a friend someone who, without hesitation or reservation, I would offer a kidney. It is as simple as that. And to have 5 such people in my life is a blessing that I do not take for granted.

While I understand the intent of the question, the amazingness of my 5 friends really says nothing about me. They are intelligent, funny, loving, mindful, empathetic, compassionate, and gloriously odd beings in their own right. Period. They are generous with their time and talents to a fault. And I am just along for the ride, desperately trying to learn by example. Which brought me full circle back to my initial response of “Not much—they are all dead.”

When I think of the company I keep, I think of those individuals whose words, ideas, and examples have been my constant traveling companions as I make my way in this life. Those individuals I can turn to, without fail, for solace, guidance, inspiration, grace, humor, perspective, and respite.

Here they are, in alphabetical order. And I am happy to report that Richard Bach, Jonathon Livingston Seagull’s dad, is still alive.

· Marcus Aurelius

· Richard Bach

· M.F.K. Fisher

· Abraham Joshua Heschel

· John O’Donohue

· Pádraig Ó Tuama

· Rumi

· Henry David Thoreau

Each has a story. Each a traveling companion at a particular inflection point in my life. The first to join was Richard Bach, the last to join was John O’Donoghue, with all others falling somewhere in-between.

I’m not sure what this list says about me. And I’m not even sure it even matters. Maybe the point is that I have a list, regardless of who is on it. In the words of the African proverb:

If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together.

What does the company I keep say about me? Simply, it is the company that keeps me.


P.S. I can’t help but wonder who next will be joining me, as I have a long way yet to travel.

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