In 1958 the first World Friendship Day was proposed and in 2011, July 30th was declared International Friendship Day. Some countries do celebrate a few days later in August. But no matter, there is a week where the world takes a moment to stop and appreciate the love and unique bond between friends. When looking deeper at International Friendship Day, I found that it was also about looking at the roles friendships play at promoting peace in different cultures and encouraging friendships across diverse backgrounds. In this climate, this holiday all of a sudden feels so important. This day pops up for most of us on a Facebook or Instagram feed and it typically goes ignored, recieves an eye roll or you put up a sappy post you spent two minutes on about your best friend, cleverly your best friend is your dog. But let us stop and think about how we can use this day wisely this year. Its true meaning is friendships between all people, whatever social econoic status, race, gender identity, sexual identity or ability status. It is about seeing people for who they are and celebrating their beauty and addition to your life. This is a great day to show appreciation for all your loved ones because it has no political affliation beyond the idea of equal relationships. The world has heart breaking news on the media daily, it is easy to feel alone, defeated, and depressed. It is easy to feel like healing and kindness are out of reach. So, this year, let us not meet it with an eyeroll but with expressions of gratitude for our many unique friends and colleagues.
What are some ways we can celebrate this holiday? A gratitude journal or list of meaningful friendships and aquiantances and what value you see them bring to each day. Some of this gratitude spoken out loud will also bring you closer to these people and add something special to their day. Words of affirmation and appreciation can change the course of a day, or even a week. Workplaces can acknowledge this day by doing a staff activity or appreciation post that speaks about peace, happiness and unity among its range of employees. If you want to celebrate on a more personal level, grab a Thinking of You card or bring someone their favorite tea of coffee, a small act of kindness and appreciation for your connecction.
This is also a day to pass this thankfulness and togetherness on to the next generation. If you work with children or have children, taking time to review stories of peace and love despite differences is a good way to cultivate this trait. Let the kids give some examples of their friends and why they love them. Define what a being a good friend is with them. A classic activity that is still so popular is to make friendship bracelets with a note telling their friend why they appreciate them. In a classroom or similar setting, an activity I particularly liked when I was teaching, was Compliment Cards. Each student will make a card with their name and decorate it a little surrounding their name. Then the cards are passed around table to table, each student will receive every other student’s card, and they all write a compliment about that person, no matter how well they knew them. This was particularly powerful when older students came to model this behavior and make cards with the younger kids. At the end, the class unity is stronger, students have a feeling of confidence and feel appreciated by their peers. New friendships even begin.
Let us take this day to ask what we can do for a friend, how we can be better and thank those we appreciate for all they have done; and if words are hard to find, let us show them.
By: Adalyn Wilson, MHC InternShare