Celebrate good times…and good friends.
July is a very special month for celebrations. We start off with a bang – July 4th, Independence Day.
July 4th has been a federal holiday since 1870, but this historic document, the Declaration of Independence was drafted by Thomas Jefferson in 1776, as the thirteen colonies claimed their independence from England. This eventually led to the formation of the United States as an independent nation. For more than 240 years we have paused on this date to celebrate our liberties and our freedom from tyranny. And we honor and remember all those who gave their lives to give us this precious gift.
How do we celebrate? Fireworks are associated with July 4th and many cities present a dazzling display of fireworks that light up the nighttime sky. (The Hatch Shell on the Charles River in Boston is my favorite July 4th place for a concert, with breathtaking fireworks displays over the river.) Many towns and small communities have their own parades and fireworks displays. And don’t forget the parades and concerts shown on television.
While I enjoy these celebrations, my favorite part of July 4th is the family and close friends who gather for cookouts and backyard barbecues. I love the casual, friendly, laid-back atmosphere, the sharing of stories and news, the quickly-organized games and activities, and the aroma of barbecue, hamburgers, and hot dogs. For me, there is great beauty and intimacy in this aspect of the holiday. Which brings me to another favorite celebration in July. We’ll skip over more than 80 other July celebrations – some touching, such as Global Hug Your Child Day, some silly, such as National Raspberry Cake Day, and some perhaps a bit wacky, such as National Body Painting Day.
Instead, we’ll go to the end of the month and, on July 30th, let’s celebrate International Friendship Day.
Established in 2011, the General Assembly of the United Nations declared July 30th as an International Day of Friendship. This was designed to foster friendships and to bridge the gaps between race, religions, and other divisions which keep us from enjoying friendships with each other. It was designed to support communities and to work towards world peace. Woodrow Wilson said, “Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together.” And, in studying the importance of friendships and social contacts, researchers in recent years have discovered that people with strong social relationships live longer.
We need only watch TV or read a newspaper to be aware of how little attention seems to be given to building bridges, making friends, drawing all-inclusive communities. When we try to think of what we could do to promote friendship on a global scale, the task feels too daunting. But, on individual levels we can do and accomplish a lot. We can begin by nourishing our own friendships, by letting our friends know how important they are to us and that we do not take their friendship for granted. We can organize friendship groups in our churches and communities. We can broaden our circle of friends and offer support when they need it. We can plan fun activities with our friends and celebrate our mutual caring. We can reach out to the lonely, friendless people in our community, offering them support, comfort, and, whenever possible, lending a helping hand by connecting them with appropriate community resources.
So, on July 30th, call or send a card or email to a long-distance friend, thanking them for their love and support. Arrange for lunch or coffee with a friend close by. Look at everyone you meet for the first time that day as a possible new friend. And, finally, don’t forget to be the very best friend you know how to be. Be the kind of friend you would like to have in your life.