If there’s one positive take-away from my youth I always want to keep, its the exposure to people from other countries. This has been a constant throughout my life. It began with the Foreign Exchange Student who stayed with our family.
I like to look at a globe or a world map, then ponder the various countries that are home to some of my friends. Most of them came from out of the blue with accidental meetings. Some were the result of more structured planning. I think of friends in Europe and India this way. One friend, from Japan, became my lover and soul-mate. Long-distance, virtual relationships have come via the Web. All of these friends have a special place in my heart.
Rumi, the Sufi poet had this to say about friendship:
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”
I love to ponder this verse because I feel the depth of the timeless friendliness of Rumi coming through the ages. These aren’t cold, structured words they are more like seeds for deep, profound emotions.
A real friend, one you listen to and care about and who listens to and cares about you in equal measure, is a profound rarity in this world. That particular kind of friend is one who will protect you from your mortal enemies and you would do the same for him without hesitation.
Even a casual friend is someone special. The least you can say about her is that she is not your enemy. This truth came to mind when I remembered one of Abraham Lincoln’s statements about friendship. “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” This is a beautifully subversive idea, isn’t it? Imagine what would happen if every person on Earth actually befriended an adversary. Instead of sabre-rattling, we’d hear the laughter of comaraderie.
Something of this sort inspired UNESCO, through the United Nations, to declare the International Day of Friendship. It began as a proclamation initiating the “International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010).” It has since become a continuing initiative. The International Day of Friendship is one of the best holidays to come from the UN.
There is much anecdotal evidence that argues when young children are left to their own devices, they befriend one another regardless of class, race, or gender. Children have to be taught intolerance. Taken to a logical conclusion, a generation of kids who befriend each other without intolerance, will create a friendly world. I like this idea, a lot.
Through universal friendship, UNESCO aims to promote respect for all human rights and equality. They hope to advance understanding, tolerance, and solidarity. Ultimately, they want to promote international peace and true security. Through international friendship sustainable social and economic development will become a reality. This is a plan I can fully support.
The UN encourages individuals, civic groups, religious institutions, governments, and international organizations, to promote initiatives, activities, and events that contribute positively to the world about friendship. On July 30th, each year, we can all promote further dialogue that encourages mutual understanding and reconciliation.
As I reflect on International Day of Friendship, I ponder this verse from Kahlil Gibran:
“When you part from your friend, you grieve not;
For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.”
The Blue Jay of Happiness enjoys the wisdom of Elie Wiesel. “Friendship marks a life even more deeply than love. Love risks degenerating into obsession. Friendship is never anything but sharing.”