You Gotta Have Friends

It turns out that fourth graders know something that as adults we may have forgotten. Remember what it was like to have friends?

Jake Powell, a loyal friend to many and a true “friend” of the Penn Treaty Museum, died suddenly in 2017. Shock and sadness followed. The Penn Treaty Board felt it would be fitting to honor his memory with an essay contest. He was, after all, a gifted writer. The theme was obvious – Friendship.

Fourth graders as part of the Pennsylvania Core Curriculum Standards for Social Studies learn about William Penn and the original stewards of the land. They seemed like a good target audience but would an old-fashioned essay contest fly? Did they know about friendship? Would they care? The answer to all was a resounding YES.

Teachers in several schools were contacted and essays were submitted in 2018 and 2019. We’ll fast forward to May 2020 when 165 (!) essays arrived in the midst of the pandemic-driven end of school year. The contest judges from the PTM Board began reading. The essays were funny, sad, profound and occasionally prompted a few tears. They got it. They understood that we are happier when we are not alone. They wanted to have friends and they wanted to be friends. They were inclusive. Penn and Tamanend would be proud.

Here are some favorite thoughts from the essays that may spur you to connect and reach out. If you would like to read more, please visit the “Friendship” section of the website.

Being a friend takes trust, kindness, and love and we are not all perfect. Sometimes we get into arguments or worse, but mistakes help us learn how to be a better friend and that’s just what we need.

Friendship is an understanding, forgiving, and strong bond between two people that is hard to break but if it is broken is very hard to get back.

I am Nanticoke and Lenape, like the natives who were friends with William Penn. The Lenape word for friendship is witisewakan. Friendship is important in our culture because being kind to everyone is a main thing we are taught.

Gail Sweet 12/20