I'm sitting here ruminating about friendships.

It's early morning and I'm about to call my friend, Jan Johannessen. She is one of my dearest friends and it's shameful that I don't keep in touch with her more often.

We live only 45 minutes apart and you know what they say about friendship: The road to a friend is never long. Not only do we enjoy each other's company but our husbands also like being around each other. Jan and I often comment about how hard it is to find that kind of four-way friendship. It's rare.

So why don't I call her more often, I ask myself, as I am about to pick up the phone. We get so involved in the busyness of life that we sometimes forget about such niceties.

But I don't have to worry about any strain in our friendship for any reason. Whenever we talk, it's always as if it were only a few heartbeats ago that we had one of our in-depth conversations.

True friendships and like that and it's a gift to be treasured.

Some people treasure jewels. One of my friends has a big collection of diamond jewelry. She enjoys having diamonds so much that she sometimes pulls them out just to look at them because they make her feel good.

That's how I feel about friendships. True friends are like rare jewels to be treasured. And we never know where or when we will find one of those gems.

It's often said that the best friendships are those that have endured through the years. Indeed, there is the strongest of bonds that exist between any two people who have shared the same foxhole together, so to speak.

Some of life's blessings for which I am most grateful are my longtime friends who have shared my joys and my sorrows with equal commitment.

But what amazes me is sometimes we meet someone who becomes that kind of true friend rather quickly. I'm fond of saying we never know what's around the next corner. Sometimes, around that corner awaits a person who will enrich our life. And sometimes, we find that friend in unexpected places or circumstances.

When I bought my home in Florida, my wonderful realtor advised me not to talk to the seller. That's what realtors are for, she said. But when I decided to buy the Rotonda West property, I had one question only the seller could answer.

"What are the neighbors like?" I asked her.

I've long believed that good neighbors are a valuable asset that the tax collector can't assess, but they sure do add to the value of a neighborhood. During my many years I spent in Palmerton, I was always grateful for my neighbors, especially my neighbor's daughter, Mary, who became like a sister to me. I was hoping to find the same kind of extraordinary neighbors in Florida.

Kay assured me that I would. "It's the best neighborhood in the world and I hate to leave it," she answered. She went on and on telling me specific examples about the extraordinary "neighborliness" of those who lived nearby. One couple drove her to cancer treatments every day and helped her get through her ordeal.

Sure enough, when I moved in, I discovered she was right. I found some incredible neighbors, always willing to help. I also found something I didn't expect to find – a true friendship with the woman who sold me the house.

How often does that happen? Buyers and sellers are at cross purposes so they have, by necessity, an adversarial relationship. After the deed is transferred, they seldom see each other again.

The day I signed the contract on my house, Kay asked if I needed furniture. Because I didn't know the area, she drove me to her favorite furniture store and then drove me around, pointing out places I might need to go. She also volunteered to take care of my house during the months I was in Pennsylvania before I became a full-time resident.

Kay is like that with everyone. She is always willing to help. We're both amazed at the strong friendship we developed over the past six years.

Sometimes, a friendship starts with instant chemistry. My role as a newspaper writer means I meet some rather special people. Over the years, I've had great friendships bud during interviews and I still hold these people close to my heart.

There are also times when I eventually developed a strong friendship with someone I didn't like before I got to know them. One lesson from that is to give people a chance. If we take time to know someone, we often discover what a gem they are.

The friends in my life are my gems. Like the woman who periodically pulls out her jewels to admire them, I sometimes reflect on the special friends in my life. When I do, I feel blessed.

Recent studies show that those who have a strong social network stay healthier and weather setbacks easier. There's nothing surprising there. Friends make good times better and bad times more endurable.

If you have one good friend, you are blessed. If you have several, you are rich, indeed, because true friends are the diamonds of life.