May 23, 2014: ‘UN Day of Friendship’ could be a goal for every day, by Jane Wahlmeier

May 23, 2014 by

Jane WahlmeierDid you know that since 2011, the United Nations proclaims July 30 as International Day of Friendship? According to the U.N. web site, “the International Day of Friendship … promotes the role that friendship plays in promoting peace.”

Over the course of my 60 years, I’ve lived in eight communities in Kansas, Colorado and Florida. Each move we made brought with it countless new friends. I’ve met people who have influenced me and helped broaden my horizons of life beyond the small town in northwest Kansas where I grew up.

Friends have come into my life in many forms: family, schoolmates, co-workers, neighbors, store clerks, fellow parishioners, parents of our children’s friends… Friendship nourishes my soul. I’ve lost touch completely with some of the friends I’ve made; others are maintained through the traditional Christmas letter.

This last weekend I ran into an old friend and we sat for two hours and caught up on our children and grandchildren and mutual friends. It felt good.

I once read a story about a fighter pilot who was shot down during battle. The pilot escaped enemy capture and was rescued, but he always felt a great amount of respect for the unknown enemy soldier who managed to shoot down a plane that was considered undetectable.

After the war, the pilot actually found the enemy soldier who was behind that gun. The two went on to meet and form an international friendship. Their wives and children even became lifelong friends.

These two former enemies became convinced that friendship, getting to know and respect others, is the best deterrent to war.

Mother Teresa put it another way: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

Friends trust each other, they protect each other, they console each other, they encourage each other. Friends respect and enjoy each other. Friends come in different colors, religions, and genders. Friends don’t always agree, but simply respect their differences.

I consider myself very fortunate to have a wide range of friends, all of whom are very important to me. Friendships have helped me grow as a person and sometimes the friend has grown with me. Everyone has something important to offer. I just have to remind myself to listen closely to what others have to say.

So as International Day of Friendship approaches, think about the U.N. proclamation and the hope for the day to “involve young people, as future leaders, in community activities that include different cultures and promote international understanding and respect for diversity.”

You know, I think that might be a good thing to strive for everyday!

— Jane Wahlmeier is the Motherhouse Administrative Services Coordinator for the Sisters of St. Joseph and has lived in Concordia for seven and a half years.

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