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An Introduction to Our Future – A Blog Series by Jeremi Snook

There comes a day when you realize turning the page is the best feeling in the world, because you realize there is so much more to the book than the page you were stuck on. – Zayn Malik

When I was nine, I lived in Raymond, New Hampshire, a small town with a population of 7,000. The area had not changed in decades, with generations of the same families living in the old farmhouses that were scattered along the wrinkled pavement road. We lived just a half-mile from my great-grandparents’ farm, which I could reach much quicker if I dared to walk the dark forest trail that connected our properties. I loved watching my grandmother cook. She always told me a story and let me help, so I always found my way, battling the forest monsters to get to her house in time to take part.

One particular day, I arrived just as grandma was putting this doughy substance from a plastic bag into a bowl. “It’s friendship bread,” she said with a smile, “from a dear friend who I had not seen in awhile who visited last weekend.” She then told a story, as she always did, about how this dough had been shared by hundreds of people before us. Receiving the friendship dough was a sign of love and appreciation for the friendship one had with another. She shared how the chain of friendship, symbolized by the sharing of the dough from person to person, connects all of us, and that it was now our turn to grow and share the dough.

“How do we grow it?” I asked, surprised that dough, of all things, had a life of its own. “We will keep it in a warm place tonight, and when you come back tomorrow, you’ll see,” she said, with a smile on her face. Sure enough, when I returned the next day, the dough had not only grown above the top of the large bowl, but it had begun to overflow and drop onto the counter. It was alive, I thought to myself! We proceeded to make cakes that were put into the oven and reserve a little of the extra dough. “Now we must choose a few people we want to give this dough to who can continue the chain of friendship,” she concluded. We put small amounts of dough into three plastic bags, which we labeled and later distributed to friends who lived along the road.

The whole experience was magical, from the multiplying of the dough, to the thought of hundreds of people before us who had taken part in continuing the chain of friendship. Even to this day, as I knead my own homemade sourdough bread, I think about that moment and wonder how many more people in that chain have kept the story alive in their kitchens. Was the friendship bread still out there somewhere? Was the story still being shared now with a whole new generation?As a child, I was fascinated by the idea that you can start with something so small and watch it grow exponentially. As an adult, I continue to see this principle applied in so many ways. Looking back over the last forty years, for instance, we can appreciate how the power of a small idea has become an incredibly powerful force of individuals committed to making friends around the world.

What started for many with apprehension and uncertainty on that first journey has evolved into a lifetime of strangers who became friends, and friends who are now family. Tens of thousands of individuals have been affected by our Friendship Force activities in some way over the years. Most of these individuals, because of Friendship Force members like yourself, have engaged with the world beyond their front doors and been changed as a result.

Reflecting on the power of our founder Wayne Smith’s idea that became a movement and the many people who have been changed because of our organization, I wonder what impact our organization will have ten years from now. Has our investment in global peace through understanding and friendship reached maturity? Or, have we just begun?

Whether you have been a part of Friendship Force since its inception or just recently joined, it doesn’t take long to connect the important role our organization plays in a world riddled with divisions, strife, and misunderstanding. How do we continue to be relevant to a world that is constantly evolving? How do we reach a wider demographic and introduce this wild idea that a world of friends can lead to a world of peace?

Turning the page at Friendship Force means opening our minds and hearts to the rest of Friendship Force’s story. We must consider the possibility that the seeds of friendship planted over that past four decades have only begun to take root in the world, and the organization’s greatest impact in the world is yet to be observed.

Whether our time with Friendship Force is only a moment, an event, a few years, or a lifetime, our mutual commitment to improving the world one friend at a time goes beyond our own experiences. Whatever time we have available to commit, we are ambassadors to a movement, not participants in a travel program. While we are planting seeds of understanding in the world today, we are also nourishing a movement started 40 years ago, ensuring it continues for the generations that are coming behind us. We are all a part of building this legacy right now.

Many of you already give to Friendship Force through involvement in your clubs as active members, inbound hosts, and outbound ambassadors. Others give through financial gifts as well, with donations to support the FFI Annual Fund and our recently completed “I’m In!” Campaign. However, before any donation of time, treasure, or talent, you need to understand and feel secure about the outcome of your investment. For our 40th Anniversary Campaign, we recognize the necessity of providing clear, helpful information regarding what we hope to accomplish with these investments, so we can advance to the next page of Friendship Force confidently together.

The 40th Anniversary Campaign, launched in May, is designed to push the organization toward greater impact by capitalizing on the momentum that’s been building for 40 years and opening our mission to a wider demographic of prospective members worldwide. It is broadly divided into three major domains: 1) Expand our core, 2) Engage future leaders, and 3) Activate a new socially-responsible travel network. Put more simply, this means 1) expand our membership and establish new clubs, 2) expand and create programs to reach a wider demographic in order to encourage life-long engagement with our organization, and 3) leverage technology to enhance the connectivity of our worldwide membership.

As the world continues to evolve around us, we all recognize that Friendship Force must evolve as well. But how do we continue to strengthen the core home-hosting component that sets Friendship Force apart from all others, while opening the reach of our mission to a wider audience?

The answer starts with trust, transparency, detail, strategy, passion and a plan, and ends with you.

In this series, I will continue to explore these topics over the coming months, breaking down each of the three areas of the campaign in the context of our vision for the future of Friendship Force. I hope you will join me. I simply ask for a small investment of your time to see the larger picture of what we hope to accomplish through this campaign, as well as to see the role you or a friend might play in leaving your mark on Friendship Force’s success.

Until then, if you happen to receive a small bag of friendship bread dough, would you pass some along to me? I would like to tell my kids a story.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for additional entries in this blog series by Jeremi!

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