Posts Tagged ‘friendship’

Photo: Dominique Soguel.
Young migrants who arrive in Sweden alone become part of a “big family” with older people in this unusual living arrangement.

You may have heard of anti-immigrant sentiment rising in Sweden, a country that historically has been welcoming to victims of war and persecution. But no story is the whole story.

At the Christian Science Monitor Dominique Soguel reports about the ongoing generosity of many Swedes.

“It was when his older Swedish neighbors threw him a high school graduation party that Afghan native Zia Sarwary finally felt a sense of belonging in this picturesque seaside city [Helsingborg].

“ ‘It meant everything to me,’ says Mr. Sarwary, who at the age of 13 arrived alone in Sweden during the 2015 refugee crisis. ‘That was the beginning of feeling at home.’

“Mr. Sarwary is one of dozens of tenants living in Sällbo, a shared-living project mixing elder Swedes and young adults, some of them from Sweden, others – like him – from the Middle East or Afghanistan. The six-story building with 51 apartments helps counter both the loneliness of advanced-age Swedes and the integration difficulties facing migrants who arrived as unaccompanied minors.

“Tenants of Sällbo have found common ground within these colorful walls, which they attribute to the cumulative impact of courtesy, kindness, mutual curiosity, and understanding.

“ ‘The whole goal was to show that even if you are different and even if you are people who would not usually socialize, you would do so if there is a safe environment where you know who is in the house,’ says Dragana Curovic, the project manager for Sällbo. ‘After three years, we can say that it worked.’

“Had they not moved under the same roof, the older Swedes and young migrants living here would almost certainly not have mingled. Fear and misunderstanding would have been major obstacles. Older Swedes’ impressions of young migrants draw heavily on negative press reports linking them to crime.

“As for the immigrants, their interactions with Swedes had largely been limited to asylum center officials – authority figures who set the initial tone for the newcomers’ experience, but weren’t focused on building bonds with them.

“Sällbo attempts to overcome that by getting tenants engaged with each other.

To move in, tenants must agree to socialize at least two hours per week.

“That can happen in shared kitchens, activity rooms, or cozy living areas. Each floor boasts three common areas, ranging from puzzle and scrapbooking rooms to libraries and film-screening rooms to carpentry workshops. Sun-kissed kitchens are set up for mingling, growing herbs, pickling, and baking. Artwork decorates the hallways. …

“Young and old concur that the pandemic helped strengthen the bonds that bind them. Younger residents did grocery shopping for the elders, who returned the favor by helping those with low computer skills keep up with their classes online.

“Now a logger working night shifts, Mr. Sarwary wishes he had even more time to spend with his older neighbors and feels bad when he needs to cut conversations short to catch his bus. After all, elders are treated with deference in Afghanistan. He believes curiosity feeds residents’ capacity to find common ground across cultures and age groups.

“ ‘People try to understand each other,’ he says. ‘I know you have your differences. I have mine. But we can meet in the middle ground and do something together that is good for both of us. There is a positivity in everything. That is the best part.’

“ ‘Sometimes you do things that are not correct,’ Mr. Sawary continues. ‘Instead of people coming in scolding you, they come in and they’re like, “Oh, you could do it this way.” ‘ …

“It helps that people understand that he had a tough background and approach him with an open mind to learn about his headline-grabbing, war-torn homeland.

“ ‘They would always ask instead of just judging. “OK, is this true about your country?” ‘ he says. …

“Jan Gustavsson, a retired provider of security systems, says he like helping young people from Afghanistan and other parts of the world integrate. ‘We can see in … Stockholm and Gothenburg, there’s a lot of problems. … I think it will help if these people live together with Swedish people.’ …

“Anki Andersson oversees scrapbooking activities on Tuesdays. Her husband, Kalle, helps fellow seniors do seated workouts. ‘Sällbo is the perfect place if you are mobile and seeking to socialize,’ says Ms. Andersson. ‘People here are so alike in a way. It is hard to explain. We click together very well, both the older and young residents. …

“ ‘If we have something we need to do or heavy things to carry, they give as a hand. We are a big family.’ “

More at the Monitor, here. No firewall. Nice pictures.

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I had a wonderful weekend in Florida with a couple I hadn’t seen in decades. One woman asked the other what she would like for her birthday, and, because she felt that summers with my family had been a positive turning point in her life and because keeping touch through Christmas cards just didn’t cover the ground, she said she would like to have me come for a visit.

If you have never been a birthday present, I’m here to tell you that it is just the best. I include some pictures of our activities, but mainly we talked and talked and filled in the blanks.

May the road rise to meet you, may the wind be at your back, and may you be somebody’s birthday present someday.











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The New York Times Science section had a cute piece in January about surprising friendships among different species of animals. Perhaps you saw it.

Erica Goode reported, “Videos of unlikely animal pairs romping or snuggling have become so common that they are piquing the interest of some scientists, who say they invite more systematic study. Among other things, researchers say, the alliances could add to an understanding of how species communicate, what propels certain animals to connect across species lines and the degree to which some animals can adopt the behaviors of other species.

” ‘There’s no question that studying these relationships can give you some insight into the factors that go into normal relationships,’ said Gordon Burghardt, a professor in the departments of psychology and ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Tennessee, who added that one video he liked to show students was of a small and persistent tortoise tussling over a ball with a Jack Russell terrier. …

“Until recently, any suggestion that interspecies relationships might be based simply on companionship would probably have been met with derision, dismissed as Pixar-like anthropomorphism. That has changed as research has gradually eroded some boundaries between homo sapiens and other animals. Other species, it turns out, share abilities once considered exclusive to humans, including some emotions, tool use, counting, certain aspects of language and even a moral sense. …

Barbara J. King, an anthropologist at the College of William and Mary, said that she hoped researchers would begin to collect examples of cross-species interactions to build a database that would merit scientific scrutiny. ‘I think we’re not even at the point of being able to extract patterns because the database is so small,’ she said, adding that the topic could also benefit from a rigorous definition of what constitutes a ‘friendship’ between members of different species.” More here.

Photo: Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary by way of Africa Geographic.

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At around age 2-1/2, small people begin to be ready for friendship. My almost-three-years grandson plays with his friend now, instead of just in the same space.

They understand each other’s words. They find the same things funny — leaning way, way back on the swing, climbing back up the chute of the double slide, feeding wood chips to mitten puppets, getting ready to kick the ball down the hill when suddenly it decides to go ahead without you.

I spent a little time Saturday morning with my grandson, his friend, and her mother. I told the mother how much I love the learning-language stage. She agreed and gave me an example of how it can be confusing when one word has two meanings.

She said she had told her daughter that the new baby brother had no teeth you could see but that the teeth were in his gums. Sometime later, when her daughter asked what she was chewing and she answered that she was chewing “gum,” the little girl thought her baby brother’s teeth must be in there.

Two and a half is a time so full of strange new things, she probably didn’t think it was any stranger than anything else.

A WordPress blogger in Australia [subsequent correction: not Australia but B.C Canada in the Okanagan] has another cute story, here.

Hungry mitten puppets

get ready to kick

the ball got away

casting light, not shadow

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Last night I went to a jazz benefit for the nonprofit Kids4Peace Boston, which sponsors a summer camp and other events for children of three faiths — Christian, Muslim, and Jewish. The children are from both the United States and Jerusalem and are 11 to 12. Read more about the program here.

The fundraising event was held in the Grand Circle Gallery in Boston, which features magnificent travel posters and travel photography from the 1930s and 1940s. The entertainment was provided by Indian vocalist Annette Philip and her jazz quartet. Very impressive.

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