Happy International Family Day
Ever since 1993, the 15th of May has been International Day of Families. Designated by the United Nations (UN) it is meant to be a day for us to reflect on the importance of family. Of course, family is an interesting word and officially (whatever that means) it refers to a group of one or more parents and their children living together as a unit (an interesting description!). But surely family means so much more than that!?
I have four children, or my lovelies as I like to call them. One is now an adult and my three little ones are all under 6 years old and live with me some of the time (not my choice, sadly). So even though we don’t all live together, they are absolutely all my family. I didn’t have a great childhood despite having both my parents around, so the number of parents doesn’t really make a difference either.
Surely family is just shared love with a group of people that matter to us. That might include step-children, blended families, adopted families or groups of friends and individuals that choose to be ‘family’.
One big family
But what if we think even bigger? Instead of limiting ourselves to some small definition of family, let’s behave, if only for a day, as though all of humanity is our family. There are over 7 billion of us on this wonderful blue planet we call home. Every one of us is beautifully unique, and we’re all family. Perhaps not by birth, or by any definition of family stipulated by dictionaries or authorities we might be used to, but we are all human beings trying to do and be the best we can.
Besides, if family is all it’s cracked up to be, why are so many of us lonely? The top five loneliest countries in the world are Sweden, the UK, Japan, Italy and the USA! Globally, two in five people (41%) reported becoming lonelier over the last 6 months. Add to that, loneliness reduces our life expectancy and the quality of our lives. It has also been suggested that loneliness is the driving force behind addiction. For example, thousands of soldiers were addicted to heroin during the Vietnam War. And yet the vast majority of those soldiers kicked the habit as soon as they returned home to their family and friends - people they loved and who loved them.
Bottom-line, people need people. We are social animals, so let’s use International Family Day to reach out to each other as part of the human family and quash some of the loneliness so many people feel. Did you know that in Switzerland, it's illegal to own one guinea pig? You need to own at least two to prevent lonely guinea pigs! Why can’t humans have a similar law?
So here are some ideas for connecting with your human family on the 15th of May:
- Smile at a total stranger, and don’t worry if they look at you as though you’re mad.
- Visit someone elderly in your community and ask if they need any help, maybe they would like you to get some shopping in for them.
- If you don’t know your neighbours, knock on their door and introduce yourself.
- If you see someone struggling, maybe with shopping bags, ask if you can help.
- Call up a friend you haven’t seen for a while and arrange a coffee date.
One big connected family
Just commit to taking these actions on the 15th of May. No big deal. No huge commitment. See how these little changes feel and if they feel good, you might decide to reach out to your human family more often.
Perhaps the UN will eventually combine the International Day of Families with this year’s Loneliness Awareness Week, 13th-17th June 2022. If we see ourselves as one big connected family, then so many of the issues we face would disappear, including loneliness.
Let’s use International Family Day to remind ourselves of that and celebrate that none of us are alone. We have several billion brothers and sisters all over the world.
Happy International Day of Families Day to all the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, friends, neighbours, pets and every other being here on wonderful planet earth x