El Dia del Amor y la Amistad in Latin America is the Day of Love and Friendship. That’s right, friendship. We all know about the cheesy chocolates, roses and cards that Hallmark drags us into, but let’s take a moment to honor the people who are there through thick and thin—our amigos.
I don’t have kids yet but when I do I definitely want to create a space for them to make as many friends who are different from them as possible. It’s so important to embrace diversity from early on. When little kids learn to respect each other regardless of background, it gives way to limitless opportunities to grow up as aware human beings. I think about my first grade class where I sat next to Quintella, a shy African-American girl. She would tell me about Kwanzaa and I would tell her about Passover. Throughout the year we’d share stories in circle time about how our families celebrated. Once she even gave me a “spring-time friendship bracelet” right before the first night of Passover as a generous gift for my family’s festivities. I remember feeling so much love from my friend.
Even before Quintella, there was Sepideh. She was one of my first friends ever who I met mid-year in kindergarten. Sepideh’s family immigrated from Iran and she started school with zero acquaintances and zero knowledge of the pledge of allegiance. Yup, she didn’t know a lick of English! Her rite of passage into Lockhurst Elementary was initiated during an art project where we were learning about ducks. I was rapidly using my crayolas to color in the bright orange beak, when I saw a bunch of kids at her desk quacking and flapping their arms while she was frustrated and crying. The teacher called me over. “Don’t you speak Farsi, Sarah?” she pleaded. I looked at Sepideh and realized what was happening. She didn’t understand what she was supposed to be drawing. After months of trying to fit in with the all-American girls, I embraced my half-Iranian side, looked her straight in the eye, and spoke directly from my heart, “Ordak! Ordak naghasheecon!” Translation: My dear sweet darling, Sepideh, thank you for giving me a reason to feel so culturally empowered in this faithful year of 1987. All they want you to do is draw a duck, and I know you can do it, girlfriend! And yes, she delivered the best illustration in the room.
Language can bridge gaps. Learning even a few words can give you the chance to make new friends. Encourage your kids to delve into a love of foreign language and they too can be little ambassadors of love and friendship in their classrooms and on the playground.
On this 14th of February send a musical hug or “abrazo” to one of your favorite friends with half off of our Bilingual Birdies CDs. Happy Valentine’s Day.