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Every Day is Friendship Day

July 30 is the United Nations International Day of Friendship. The day celebrates the idea that friendship between peoples, countries, cultures and individuals can inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities. But every day is friendship day for J&J mom Jami and her family- read why.
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As I’ve traveled to developing areas of the world as part of the Janssen Global Public Health team at Johnson & Johnson, I’ve often been moved by the many beautiful children I’ve seen and met. Whether in central Africa or rural India, whether sprinting down dusty roads or peering out from hospital beds, the sheer exuberance these children so often exude—even when their hardships are visibly evident—never ceases to amaze me.

I’d often wish that my own children, Jack (8), Lauren (7) and Caroline (5), could somehow share in the experience of coming to know their peers in countries hundreds and thousands of miles away, to be able to build friendships that could transcend distance.

So a few years ago, we signed up as a family to sponsor a young child, Freudy, in the Dominican Republic. At the time, I had no real inkling of how meaningful the experience would be for all of us.

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To my surprise, Jack immediately began referring to Freudy as his brother, including him prominently in his crayon-and-pencil drawings of our family. My younger two, always inquisitive, asked many questions about Freudy’s life on his Caribbean island. In response, my husband and I took the opportunity to teach them much about what we knew of what made Freudy’s environment different from ours: no household running water, for example, and limited access to dental and medical care. At the same time, we took the opportunity to emphasize what made Freudy very much the same, based on what we had learned in his own crayon-and-pencil drawings sent to us: his love of baseball, his talent for art, his love for his country.

Through regular correspondence, we developed a lasting bond of friendship. Every letter we received became a golden teaching experience, and helped to bring a more global perspective into our family’s outlook and priorities.

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As a parent, it has been extraordinary to watch my children become attuned to global challenges of poverty in a very personal way, and to see them grow in character as they have come to exercise empathy and caring for new friends beyond their immediate sphere.

Today, our family of sponsored children continues to grow, and now happily includes Jordy (10), also from the Dominican Republic, Shampa (8) from India, and James (5) from Zambia. Together, these children have taught us more than they may realize; windows on the world, they bid us to broaden our everyday lenses and to bridge across borders and differences. We are humbled and honored to have them as friends.

Learn more about the United Nations International Day of Friendship. And if Jami’s story inspired you to sponsor a child, please visit our partner, Save the Children, for information on sponsoring a child in the United States or around the world.

Jami Taylor serves on the leadership team of Janssen Global Public Health, an organization within the pharmaceutical sector of Johnson & Johnson dedicated to researching, developing, and delivering transformational medicines to address the world’s greatest unmet public health needs. In 2014, Jami was named a Cross-Sector Leadership Fellow at the Presidio Institute, a program created in partnership with the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation to advance the work of leaders addressing society’s most complex challenges. Jami and her family reside in the suburbs of Washington, DC.

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