On Sunday, April 7th, 2019, The Friendship Circle of Pittsburgh (FC) will hold its annual Friends All Around event at the Pennsylvanian from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. It will be a fantastic evening which includes dinner, a silent auction, and a tribute to our graduating seniors. This event, like all of our others, will be an inclusive gathering for people of all abilities filled with fun, friendship, and appreciation – and some good food and drinks!
Perhaps the most important aspect of this event is the recognition of our senior members. We hold a mini graduation ceremony at the event and, in preparation, have spent time in the past several weeks talking to our seniors about their experiences at FC. What they have gained from participating in activities and forming friendships with people of varying abilities is pretty profound. Here are some of their thoughts:
“Friendship Circle is a place I always want to go. Somewhere I always feel wanted and accepted. Friendship Circle has taught me that I can make friends wherever I go.”
~Sara Alexandra Douds
“FC has helped me to become a better advocate for people in my community, as well as myself. I hope to be involved in similar work moving forward.”
“Friendship Circle has always been a very comfortable, friendly, and safe place. It was in Friendship Circle that I felt like I had a real purpose. […] Friendship Circle has really taught me that it’s okay to be different, and our differences are our biggest prize.”
“The new perspectives and awareness that come from diversity cannot be taught, they must be learned through experience. I will forever be grateful that The Friendship Circle has given me these experiences and equipped me with the tools to take what I have learned into the world to try and make it a little better.”
It goes without saying that our world is a scary place. Just this past October 27th, down the street from FC’s home on Murray Avenue, our community was rocked by hate. That something so horrific could happen to the people that we love in the places that we feel safe is something these young people will carry with them. But other lessons resonate too: accepting others regardless of your differences, appreciating and not judging each other’s abilities, finding joy in friendship, and contributing to your community.
Inclusion isn’t something you can stand at a chalkboard and instruct. Sure, there are concepts and tools and studies that have been disseminated, and those are valuable. But what we can learn from these seniors is powerful in that by simply spending time with people that are different than us, we find the commonalities in our humanity and the love in our hearts. That is a message this world needs now more than ever.
Our theme for this year’s gala is “All Aboard,” and after we honor them on April 7th, we at The Friendship Circle know that our seniors will help to spread the message of inclusion and friendship wherever their journeys take them.