“That’S What Friends Are For”1

I live in Whitehorse, Yukon — Canada’s “top left hand corner”. Recently I was in Toronto on a business trip. When making the travel arrangements, I scheduled my departure for 24 hours after the end of my meetings so I could hook up with a few of the people I know in that great city. So, instead of departing Toronto late on a Friday afternoon and being back in Whitehorse that evening, I left on Saturday afternoon leaving the enjoyment of 7 hours of flying time to a Saturday night. This 24 hours, I thought, would give me plenty of time to see a couple of friends and visit with a new acquaintance.

On the Friday afternoon I walked from my downtown hotel over to the U of T campus to meet with a distinguished Canadian who I had met last summer at the World Masters Games in Italy. “Next time you are in Toronto you should come and see me at U of T’s Hart House and see what it’s all about”, the friendly acquaintance said to me shortly after our initial meeting in Torino last August. “How can I refuse that offer”, I thought to myself. After all, my father is a U of T grad from the early 1950’s and when I was growing up he often spoke of his adventures at university including Hart House. Well, I received a grand tour of the very vibrant Hart House and I also learned a bit about its interesting history.

That evening, I had supper with two young lawyer friends at a popular pizza place in the Kensington Market area of downtown Toronto. A recently married and very spirited couple, they were full of ideas about the next phases in their lives and careers. Not only were they on the cusp of an early spring vacation to Mexico (to escape Ontario’s never ending winter), but they were brimming with opinions about some of Canada’s most topical public issues. After a couple of hours, we parted ways and I walked back to my hotel full on energy — at almost 9 pm!

The next morning, after an early morning run on various streets in-between Front Street and the Yorkville area, I had breakfast with one of my dearest friends who I’ve known since 1970. I see him nearly every year when I’m in Toronto. He is about 10 years older than me and was my grade 7 teacher during my elementary school years in Kitchener, Ontario. We talked and laughed easily like any close friends would who have known each other for decades, in good times and in hard times.

That night, as I sat on the plane back to Whitehorse, I thought to myself “what was that 24 hours all about (other than me walking madly all over downtown Toronto)?” I concluded that that extra 24 hours was about the value of friendship, its link to personal wellness and that life is less about ourselves and more about the friendships we forge with others. Like the refrain from the popular children’s song, I learned that it’s important to ” Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, and the other gold.”


[1] According to Wikipedia, “the song ‘That’s What Friends Are For’ was written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager. It was first recorded in 1982 by Rod Stewart for the soundtrack of the film Night Shift, but it is far better known for the 1985 cover version by ‘Dionne Warwick and Friends’.”


Tom Ullyett is the Deputy Minister of the Yukon Department of Justice in Whitehorse, Yukon, the Chair of LPAC and a lifelong friend to many.


  1. It’s amazing to me that a city the size of Toronto–which felt so large and impenetrable when I first moved here–suddenly has so many more possibilities when we have those relationships. As I make my way through the city every day, there are so many familiar faces at the coffee shops, libraries, post office, gym, movie theatres, stores and restaurants. Many I dare even call friends, and certainly many more provide me with daily moral support. If we open ourselves up to the possibility of relationships the world becomes that much friendlier and manageable.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences, Tom. It has me thinking about my own city in a different light.