If there is one thing this pandemic has shown us, it’s that we need our friends – not just the ones we know, but the ones we have yet to meet! As many of us were locked down over the last 18 months, (and some places of the world still are), we began to realise that it really is the little things that mean a lot – a hug, a genuine smile, a friendly pat on the back. These things matter because these are the things that really make us feel good – not our car, our house or our status; but our friends, loved ones and the memories we create and share together.
We also realised that it’s lonely on your own, and that we are better working together. Again, not just working with people we know, but whole communities coming together to help out those in need, delivering food parcels and checking on vulnerable neighbours, walking someone’s dog or making contact over Zoom to check in with the people we love.
July 30th is the United Nation’s International Friendship Day. Officially proclaimed in 2011, it is aimed at promoting friendships between peoples, countries, cultures, and individuals to “inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities”. It is also intended to support the goals and objectives of the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace and the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World
Originally established by the greeting card industry early last century, it was quickly picked up around the world as countries adopted their own friendship days. In 1998, the United Nations announced, ‘Winnie the Pooh’ as their world Ambassador of Friendship, thanking him for “his consistent message of companionship, loyalty and friendship.”
UN Member States are invited to “observe this day in an appropriate manner”; celebrating our treasured friends by reminding them of how much we appreciate them and thanking them with thoughtful gifts; as well as reaching out across the miles to make new ones.
Friends are fun; friends help get us through life’s ups and downs, and friendships can start very young and last a lifetime. We all remember a friend we made in nursery school; when we realised for the first time that there were other people who liked the same things as we did. So, what better way to get involved in International Friendship Day than by taking part in some friendship activities?
But with the lessons of 2020-1, why should friendship promotion be limited to just one day? Why not challenge yourself to a whole month of friendship activities, and see how many new friends you can make before the end of July?”
Here is a simple list of easy and cheap things you can do to celebrate friendships, both old and new, taking you from July 1st
to International Friendship Day itself. You can do them in person, online or by an old-fashioned letter, depending on the restrictions in your area. So how many will you get through?
- Smile at people; it costs nothing to be nice – and if you’re wearing a mask – why not draw a smile on the front of it, or simply write the word ‘smile’
- Write a letter or an email to an old friend
- Make some new friends in a different country. You could find a pen pal (www.penpalworld.com) or connect with a similar work or school organisation in a different part of the world – maybe even learn a foreign language to boot
- Sponsor a child in a different part of the world – there are lots of different sponsorship programmes, but try https://www.worldvision.org.uk/sponsor-a-child or https://www.compassionuk.org/sponsorship
- Organise a ‘friendship tea’. Invite your neighbours round for the afternoon and provide them with tea, giving you all the opportunity to get to know each other better
- Apologise to someone if you need to
- Make some friendship bracelets. You can use pipe cleaners, string, different coloured pieces of wool or cut up some straws to use as beads. Tie or twist the tops together, then either braid, plait or weave the strands from the top to the bottom. Tie around your friend’s wrist with love
- Make some paper flowers for your friend
- Pick up the phone and say ‘hello’.
- Give out some friendly hugs
- Make an international friendship map of where your international friends live and add their photos to remind you of them
- Bake a friendship cake and give a piece to a friend
- Watch a film about friendship – “Winnie The Pooh” (2011) is a great start with a friendly moral
- Talk to your children (if you have them) about the benefits of friendship and what it actually means to be a friend – think about helping them with the words that help define friendship, like love, trust, and respect
- Ask the local radio for a dedication to your friend
- Send a friend a card telling them how much you value their friendship
- Start a diary/scrapbook about things you’ve done with your friends
- Learn more about the United Nations and how it promotes friendship and peace around the world – then talk about it on your social media channel
- Organise a sleepover – even if you’re an adult!
- Decorate a biscuit for your friend
- Make an appreciation board: Write the names of each person you live with on a piece of paper or a sticky note. Give each person one of the notes ensuring it’s not their own name. Ask everyone to write one or two things that they appreciate about the named person and stick them up
- Sing some friendship songs and remember the good times
- Learn how other countries celebrate friendships, for example, in Paraguay, they hold a Friendship Day festival or parade, complete with floats, live entertainment and colourfully costumed dancers.
- Send an anonymous note to a neighbour saying how much you appreciate them
- Make a friendship board about what makes a good friend. You can tie into anti-bullying issues with this too.
- Give your children a hug and remind them how much you love them
- Learn the word for ‘friend’ in different languages: e.g. amigo, freund, ami and many others. See here for a list.
- Draw a candle in honour of a close or distant friend and write their name on it – light it every night and think of them
- Donate to a charity in memory of a friend
- Hooray – you made it! Now it’s time to hold a well-deserved International Friendship Day party – and remember to invite all your old and new friends!
Whatever you do, have FUN!
Let me know how it goes or some other ideas you have in the comments below: