Sometimes the children really get it and adults should listen

A dream by 86 Yr. old retired architect Billy Lee  李名信   July 2018

Share your smile with the world.

It’s a symbol of Friendship and Peace.

Attending the third and final session of  a special ICAF-sponsored FRIENDSHIP WORKSHOP – on July 4th weekend  2015 at the National Mall, Washington DC – twenty-four international teenagers ( 12 boys and 12 girls preselected from 70+ foreign countries ) were buoyant and anxious to summarize what they have learned from the first two days and what inspirations they have gained.  

They learned in the first session how to break ice with strangers from many different cultures. In the second session, they brainstormed on the pros and cons  in making friends – touching on the deep impacts of Wars vs. Peace and Hatred & Suspicion vs Love & Trust. For these teenagers, they simply can not understand why we humans can send a spacecraft to the moon and can make robots play chess, but cannot  learn and teach one another on how to tolerate and befriend  each other.

They decided that sometimes Children must push the Adults on basic ideals. They heard for example that the world’s children in fact played an important role in advancing Environmental Awareness these past few decades. Environmental problems were taken for granted forty some years ago, but today one can not discuss most issues without reference to Environment. This workshop has inspired them to work together and push for greater awareness about the need to promote Friendship world-wide .

Following one of the facilitators’ advice to set a clear goal and write down

their many urgent wishes, the group spontaneously decided to create a “DECLARATION OF INTERDEPENDENCE” on this July 4 Weekend noted for U.S.’s “DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE ”. They further decided that an “INTERNATIONAL CROSS-CULTURAL INSTITUTE ON FRIENDSHIPOLOGY” should be established in order to study this complex matter holistically.

It’s interesting to observe how things progressed during this critical third session. An American girl first proclaimed that  we must emphasize Compassion with Friendliness.  A boy from Brussels said, “we must emphasize Connectedness and Collaboration. A Chinese girl added “ Harmony “.  A Japanese Boy: “Peace”. A German Boy:  “Repentance”. French Girl: “ Forgiveness”.  Indian Girl : “ Fabric Woven with many treads “.  Boy from England :” Nature-Environment”. Boy from Norway : “ Sustainability “.  An African Boy:  “Education for All”. An Arab Girl added: “Equality”.  There were many other suggestions, but one Chinese Boy uttered last: “Don’t forget  the word INTERDEPENCE “.  One of the facilitators also suggested : “Seek Commonality”.

The students google-searched  in teams for ideas and inspiration.

On “TEAM BUILDING” they selected the following graphic pictures:

For FRIENDSHIP BUILDING they selected the following gestures.

Many also liked the Buddhist and  Native American Peace Symbols and this

Picture of a Calumet – Peace Pipe or Friendship Pipe.

Famous quotes that delighted them most were:

  • Share your smile with the world. It’s a symbol of Friendship and Peace.
  • Friends… they cherish one another’s hope and kind to one another’s dreams.
  • The bird a nest, spider a web, and man FRIENDSHIP.
  • A life without a friend is a life without sun.
  • Unity is strength.   L’union fait la force.
  • This is, because that is.  This is not, because that is not.
  • All things come into being through the interaction of various Causes and Conditions.

Their final collective production was this letter below :

Dear Family Members, Teachers, Friends, Government Leaders, and Fellow World Citizens- young and old,

At this 2015 ICAF Global Children’s Festival at Washington D.C., we, the 24 International students representing different countries and cultures around the world, were truly inspired by learning from each other and discovering the following truths :

When we first started with an earnest intention to “get to know each other and to learn from one other”, much curiosity and anxiety existed in us.

By opening up to each other and sharing some heart-felt ideas, feelings, and questions etc., we somehow became closer bonded.

All of us subsequently felt a miraculous desire to build deeper friendships –individually and collectively.                                                                 

We now feel that there is a real need for more and more frequent opportunities for young people around the world to have this kind of enlightening encounters.

We are determined to spread this “Interconnected Spirit and Joy”

when we return to our home countries, and we will nurture the long-term connectedness of this newly bonded group of strangers. 

We want to challenge our adult leaders to give more attention to Friendship Building which has been taken for granted and ignored.                    

We want to urge our adult leaders to focus on world concerns, instead of just national interests, since we are truly interdependent.

We urge for a Global Declaration of Interdependence,  and hope for the creation of an International and Cross-cultural Institute on the study on Friendship or Friendshipology –as soon as possible !

Most sincerely,

Names and signatures of the 24 International Students

( 12 to 14 year olds )

Emphasize More On People’s Goodness

Billy Lee - 李名信 - June 2019

Since retirement from Architectural Practice twenty years ago, I have been doing informal research on Friendship and on Cross-Cultural Person to Person Relationships. It’s quite clear that people mostly relate to each other based on trust and judgements. I have observed that many of my good friends are very cautious yet quick at making harsh judgements.  They do not trust readily and they judge others rather rigidly. These friends come from different cultures – both Eastern and Western. My friends generally try to be nice and friendly, but their cautiousness and their stern deliberations on good vs. bad or right vs. wrong ultimately make real trusting or mutual acceptance difficult if not impossible. I seriously wonder why and how all that became so.

I think it is true that in both Eastern and Western Cultures all parents first try to do their very best to protect and raise their young ones.  I remember my parents always alerted me on various dangerous signs – whether it was sharp metal edges, broken glass, open high-rise windows, not well-behaving playmates, or suspicious-looking people. They tried to protect me from getting hurt myself or being harmed by others by always saying “ Don’t do this. That’s dangerous. Avoid that person. That person is no good .“  “Be Careful.”  While all that seem to be earnest and caring, I suspect their very simplistic teaching without holistic explanations might have caused many children to grow up and assume the worst case in all situations, and size up other people in black or white or in absolute good or evil so very quickly without hesitance.

It may be that the parents realize that the children do not have the time and maturity to quickly analyzed all the complexities in multiple shades, and the potential danger is so alarming that their children best be taught to prepare for the worst situation immediately. In making such quick judgements we also often make permanent negative assumptions on other people’s characters. We developed the tendency to define others definitively and permanently. Condemnations right or wrong always create hatred and bad feelings unfortunately, and our societies generally do not know how to encourage, redemption, or reconciliation.

I think that all parents need to protect their own children but must be careful not to teach them to make quick all black vs all white , all good vs. all evil judgements. Indeed, people in this world are not all good or all bad. Every person has good qualities and misguided qualities. We should acknowledge and promote Goodness in all people.  We should identify Bad Traits and Misdeeds, but should not condemn people totally. As to parents’ teaching their children on how to relate to other children, they should point out why certain behaviors are not good but avoid total character assassination. When you judge certain children Bad and condemn them as permanently Bad, they naturally react defiantly with anger and will behave negatively. If you trust that they have intrinsic goodness in them and can learn how to embrace positive behaviors, I believe that they will embrace you as well for your kindness towards them. Most importantly, you want your own children to become kind and forgiving as well as strong and intelligent.

Recognize people’s Positives as well as Negatives, but emphasize more on People’s Goodness, please !  Cultivate people’s intrinsic Goodness should be our primary goal indeed!