One of the things I like most about social media is the ability to make friends and stay in touch. Last year a young woman from Nepal emailed me after reading one of my blog posts about the early days of AIDS. She had recently lost her husband to AIDS. We began corresponding through email until she found me on Facebook. Now, thanks to her, I have a circle of friends in Nepal!
In the olden days, we had pen pals. Mine lived in Sweden. Also in the olden days, international travel was nothing what it is today. In fact, there were countries that were closed to Western travelers. English was not spoken widely, like it is today. For some of us, the only people we ever met from other countries were high school foreign exchange students. It wasn’t until I was a student at UCLA in the mid-1970s that I had international friends. I am one of the least internationally traveled people I know, having only been out of the country twice; France to do a wedding in 2003 and Tahiti in 2004 (actually 2005, since we married on New Year’s Eve) for my honeymoon.
Migration and immigration has been a part of human survival since the beginning of time. People have needed to move or were forced to move for various factors. Yet, when they arrived in their new locale, they put down roots and made courageous efforts to become contributing members of their new communities. The United States is a country of immigrants. While Native Americans have been here longer than any of the rest of us immigrant peoples, even they originally migrated from somewhere else.
Global markets, natural resources, the internet and social media, the Olympics, and a host of other realities continually remind us of our interdependency. The damaging and one-sided aspects of individualism, so dominant in Western culture, are being challenged. There’s nothing wrong inherently wrong with a certain amount of individualism. However, an undue emphasis on one’s rights at the expense of another’s is flat-out sin. It’s a delicate balancing act, as with everything in life.
A new interest in the importance of friendship is beginning to emerge, in part because of our need to work together and coexist in order to survive. As a person of faith, friendship has deep theological meaning that needs to be recovered from the chokehold of individualism that is strangling the Church. Friendship is a central theological concept, depicting God’s relationship with us and our relationships with others.
Yet, most of us don’t give much thought to defining our relationship to God and others as friendship. The love Christians are to have for their neighbor is essentially a friendship. We love others, not on the basis of their attractiveness or usefulness, or out of sheer benevolence. We are to love others purely because they are also loved by God.
The concept of friendship is in all faith traditions. Even those without any faith tradition know friendship. I guess the real question to ask ourselves is: Am I willing to be a friend?
Today I received an early Friendship Day greeting from my friend in Nepal. Friendship Day is the first Sunday in August. Thankfully, it is still actively celebrated in some parts of the world. Namaste, Dolkar.