Celebrating International Friendship Day 2022

Any day can be an excuse to celebrate a special friendship, but July 30th was designated by the United Nations as International Friendship Day to recognize the “importance of friendship…in the lives of human beings around the world.” While we at LOF advocate making every day about friendship, we strongly support the UN’s goal of shining a light on the need for cross-border friendships.

You’re never too old or too young to make friends with people of other cultural backgrounds. The organization Hands of Peace, now in its 20th year, has impacted thousands in its efforts to empower youth from the United States, Israel and Palestine to become agents of change. I wrote about one cross-generational lasting friendship from the program in an earlier post, and my dear friend and neighbor Lumi became a first-time host family this year. Lumi has volunteered with the program for years, hosting meals during the summer exchange program in our hometown of Glenview and helping out at the annual benefit. When the program returned to in-person after a 2-year Covid-19 hiatus, her family decided to take the plunge and host a teen named Layan from Palestine for three weeks.

Layan quickly bonded with Lumi’s daughter Lily. Lumi described her family’s experience with Layan as “a great fit.” Layan was relaxed, friendly and curious. For Lily, the experience felt like having a big sister. Lumi herself had moved to the United States from Romania when she was in 5th grade, so she knows the importance of helping others feel welcomed. And despite decades of living in the United States, Lumi has managed to deepen a friendship with a younger cousin still living in Romania. “When I left Romania, she was maybe five or six years old,” Lumi shared. “As we entered adulthood and technology advanced, Facebook and video chats brought us closer together.”

The connection Lumi’s family formed with Layan in a relatively short time is authentic and deep. Lumi and Lily look forward to staying connecting with Layan through social media and video chats. Not to mention a trip to Israel that Lumi has begun to research for next summer.

Sara and I have both tried to be intentional about building international friendships. When we were young, we pursued study abroad opportunities and have maintained strong bonds with the friends we made overseas. As parents, we’ve sought out opportunities to expose our children to the magic of these kinds of relationships. When my son John was born, I eschewed traditional nanny and daycare options in favor of hosting au pairs from Germany, Thailand and Brazil. Sara’s two older children have participated in cultural exchange programs in Israel, and John, now a rising high school sophomore, is part of the Glenbrook Academy of International Studies,  integrating the teaching and learning of English, Social Studies, and World Languages.

In honor of International Friendship Day, we encourage our readers to mark the occasion by telling friends near and far how they are cherished. As Lumi points out, geographical borders are no longer a barrier to maintaining and deepening friendships. So Facetime, text, write, or share the friendship playlist that Spotify has created in honor of July 30th. Happy International Friendship Day from LOF!!

Friendship between peoples, countries, cultures and individuals can inspire peace efforts and presents an opportunity to build bridges between communities, honouring cultural diversity.

UN General Assembly 2011

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