A FRIENDSHIP STORY

Jean-Marie Valheur

lover of history

Few people know that the German doing the Nazi salute on the podium behind black American athlete Jesse Owens, Lutz Long, would become close friends with Owens. Long lived in Nazi Germany, where everyone was told each day of the supposed superiority of the Aryan race. But he, himself, didn’t feel that way at all.

Since the 1936 Olympics, until the days of WWII, Long and Owens exchanged letters. Even when Long was sent off to war, fighting in North Africa and Sicily, the two men still wrote to each other, checking in on one another, as they wrote of their wives, their families, hopes, fears and loves.

In North Africa in 1943, in the desert, Lutz Long wrote his final letter to Jesse Owens. A man he called his brother. His last ever known words, and they are haunting:

I am here, Jesse, where it seems there is only the dry sand and the wet blood. I do not fear so much for myself, my friend Jesse, I fear for my woman who is home, and my young son Karl, who has never really known his father.

⁣My heart tells me, if I be honest with you, that this is the last letter I shall ever write. If it is so, I ask you something. It is a something so very important to me. It is you go to Germany when this war done, someday find my Karl, and tell him about his father. Tell him, Jesse, what times were like when we not separated by war. I am saying—tell him how things can be between men on this earth.⁣⁣

If you do this something for me, this thing that I need the most to know will be done, I do something for you, now. I tell you something I know you want to hear. And it is true.⁣ That hour in Berlin when I first spoke to you, when you had your knee upon the ground, I knew that you were in prayer.⁣⁣ Then I not know how I know. Now I do. I know it is never by chance that we come together. I come to you that hour in 1936 for purpose more than der Berliner Olympiad.

And you, I believe, will read this letter, while it should not be possible to reach you ever, for purpose more even than our friendship.⁣ I believe this shall come about because I think now that God will make it come about. This is what I have to tell you, Jesse.

I think I might believe in God.⁣  And I pray to him that, even while it should not be possible for this to reach you ever, these words I write will still be read by you.

Your brother,

Lutz

Jesse Owens received the letter, but by this time his friend and brother Lutz had been transferred to Sicily. He died defending it during the Allied invasion. More than thirty years after the war, an elderly Jesse Owens traveled to Germany and found Karl Long, the son of his best friend.

That’s Karl and Jesse Owens in the picture above. Jesse Owens kept his promise to his best friend. To see his son. To tell him about the father he never knew. To tell him of their friendship. To tell him father was a good man. A brave man and honorable man. Jesse Owens, himself, died shortly after meeting Karl.

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Observations on Interpersonal Relationships and Emotional Connections Between East and West – Cultural Context and Differences- Part One -by Holden -Yang 杨泓之-June 4, 2024- by Billy’s Request

When comparing the experiences of making friends in China and America, one immediately notices the profound differences in cultural context, social norms, and underlying philosophies of life. These differences have historically been vast, akin to a great chasm, although in recent years, some aspects have shown signs of convergence. However, the differences remain significant overall.

Collectivism vs. Individualism

China, with its millennia-old cultural traditions and the guidance of the ruling party, places a strong emphasis on collectivism. In this context, the interests and needs of individuals often take a back seat to the needs of the group. This is reflected in social interactions, where the sense of personal boundaries may not be as strong, and privacy is sometimes not fully protected. Personal lives can sometimes be interfered with, which is one reason why some people choose to immigrate to the United States.

However, this state of affairs is not without its advantages. The blurring of personal boundaries often comes with a strong sense of human connection. For those who find themselves lonely or emotionally isolated, the Eastern style of interpersonal warmth can offer more external intervention and emotional support.

 Loneliness in America

In stark contrast, American culture highly values individualism, with a deep respect for personal boundaries and privacy. However, this can sometimes lead to an environment where emotional and cultural desertification exists. Despite frequent social interactions and polite exchanges, many people may feel a profound sense of loneliness. This is especially true when facing life’s challenges; the feeling of helplessness and having no close friends to turn to can be overwhelming. This phenomenon is supported by recent statistics, which indicate that loneliness is a significant issue in the United States. According to a study, [a certain percentage of Americans report feeling lonely](https://www.cigna.com/static/www-cigna-com/docs/about-us/newsroom/studies-and-reports/combatting-loneliness/cigna-2020-loneliness-report.pdf).

For new immigrants, the challenge of loneliness is even greater. Many Chinese immigrants bring their elderly parents to live with them in America. However, a considerable proportion of these elders struggle with the language barrier and cultural differences, including the challenges posed by different social interactions, ultimately giving up on life in the United States due to loneliness.

 Personal Experience and Challenges

My family’s experience highlights the stark differences in interpersonal relationships between China and America. During the period when cases of Asian hate were rising, we faced harassment and harm from our white neighbors. This led to health damage issues and significant financial losses. Despite these challenges, we found it difficult to find friends who could truly support us in our daily life, underscoring the sense of isolation and helplessness in a society that values personal boundaries perhaps too much. ( This story will be shared in a subsequent article – Part Two. )

It is obvious that, while both cultures have their strengths and weaknesses in terms of making friends and forming interpersonal relationships, the fundamental differences remain vast. Understanding and navigating these differences can be crucial for anyone trying to build meaningful connections in either context.


东西方在人际交往与情感关系一些简单观察

文化背景与差异

当比较在中国和美国交朋友的经历时,人们会立即注意到文化背景、社会规范和生活哲学的深刻差异。这些差异在历史上一直非常巨大,宛如鸿沟。尽管近年来某些方面有趋同的迹象,但总体而言,差异依然显著

集体主义 vs. 个人主义

中国有着几千年的文化传统,加之执政党的引导与要求,集体主义至上。在这种背景下,个人的利益和需求往往退居其次。这反映在人际关系上,个人边界感不够强,隐私有时得不到充分保护,个人生活有时也会被干涉,这也是一些人选择移民美国的原因。

当然,这样的状态也不是毫无好处。个人边界感的模糊带来了东方的人情味,对于那些深陷孤独或情感荒岛的人,外界更多的介入和情感关注是一种帮助。

美国人的孤独感

与此形成鲜明对比的是,美国文化高度重视个人主义,尊重个人边界和隐私。然而,这有时会导致文化或情感上的沙漠现象。尽管每天认识或接触很多人,并有很多人在语言上问候你,但很多人可能会感到深深的孤独感。尤其是在面对生活挑战时,你会深深感到无力感和无助感,身边没有一个能够真正走近你的朋友。根据最近的统计数据,孤独感是美国的一个重大问题。据一项研究显示,[一定比例的美国人感到孤独](https://www.cigna.com/static/www-cigna-com/docs/about-us/newsroom/studies-and-reports/combatting-loneliness/cigna-2020-loneliness-report.pdf)。

对于新移民来说,孤独感的挑战更为巨大。许多中国移民将父母老人接到美国生活,但相当一部分老人因为难以承受语言和文化差异,包括人际关系差异带来的孤独感挑战,而放弃在美国的生活。个人经历与挑战

我的家庭经历突显了中美之间在人际关系上的巨大差异。在亚裔仇恨案件上升的时期,我们遭到了白人邻居的骚扰和伤害,导致健康受损和财产损失。尽管面临这些挑战,我们很难找到真正支持我们的朋友,这突显了在过于重视个人边界的社会中存在的孤独和无助感。

总之,虽然两种文化在交朋友和建立人际关系方面各有优劣,但根本差异依然巨大。理解并驾驭这些差异对于任何试图在这两种环境中建立有意义联系的人来说都是至关重要的

 Holden Yang 杨泓and Children

Dedicated father of two young children, serving as a volunteer coach for his son’s soccer practice and daughter’s gymnastics practice. Passionate about community involvement as an AYSO volunteer referee. An experienced entrepreneur and consultant with a strong background in IT and business development. Extensive experience as an investment advisor and research director, committed to fostering cross-border business growth and collaborations.


Education:

Peking University – Studied under China’s most renowned economist, gaining a profound understanding    of economic theories and applications.

Stanford University -Visiting Scholar – Engaged in advanced research and academic collaboration, gained knowledge and expertise in international economics

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: -**Consultant**- **Investment Advisor**

Provided strategic consulting services to Chinese enterprises seeking financing and mergers in the U.S. market.

Assisted American companies in expanding into Asian markets, leveraging deep insights into cross-cultural business practices

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