Did you know that July 30 is the International Day of Friendship?  The day was proclaimed in 2011 by the United Nations General Assembly and is held in recognition of the relevance and importance of friendship as a noble and valuable sentiment in the lives of human beings around the world. The International Day of Friendship promotes the idea that friendship between peoples, countries, cultures and individuals can inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities and ultimately promote the understanding and respect for diversity.

I was inspired to write this piece as I reflected on the importance of friendship. At the base of our humanity is the need to connect. What does connection mean? I am sure the meaning is different for each of us. For many of us our connection to family, friends, work colleagues and neighbours reinforces our place in community. It reinforces that we are indeed important to any number of people who are part of the intricate web of our lives.

I could not reflect on the value of the concept of friendship without recognising that there are many in our community who are currently missing the joy that this fundamental connection brings. I am struck by the vision of the lonely elderly neighbour, the invisible homeless person, the person with a disability who struggles to communicate with others and the person who has a mental illness  who has alienated family and friends as a result of their illness.

Why is it that we are so uncomfortable with others that are not like us? Why is that we find it difficult  to build bridges that break down the barriers to understanding and accepting others, we are after all,  the same; human. Why do we see the differences and focus on them, why does it matter about someone’s religion, sexuality, race or age?

If the International Day of Friendship is about inspiring the building of bridges between communities and people and promoting the value of diversity I ask you what can you do to make a difference; who can you reach your hand of friendship to?  I know exactly what I am going to do. I am going to make an effort to see those that are different to me, those that sit on the peripheries of my community and I am going to make an effort to acknowledge them, gee, I might even invite someone for coffee!