I want to let you know what we are all about. I am your host. I am the founder of Our Friendly World. My background is as a photographer, I started shooting when I was a teenager, photographing people was my great passion. It still is. I traveled around the world and I decided I wanted to be a humanitarian type of photographer, photographing people; photographing beautiful people, and I'm not talking beautiful as in what Hollywood and the mainstream considered beautiful. I wanted to portray all cultures from around the world and focus on the simple yet complex gorgeousness of life.
I wanted to show the beauty of culture - of all cultures and of the beauty of humanity on this planet. And of course I was much younger and I had this beautiful ideal, even though I grew up around racism (I saw some ugly), I still was completely in awe of the beauty in the world. The hate wasn't able to touch me.
As I traveled around the world, I decided to work on putting everything together. I started noticing that wherever I went, the people that I met, everyone seemed like family to me. Everybody was familiar to me. Especially the people that I ended up photographing, I felt this bond with everyone I photographed. They were truly family.
After some years of this, I realized, wow, this is the family I've been searching for; like, we're all here together. It's the global family. So I decided to put everything into a book. I studied all the religions of the world. I really fell in love with everyone that I photographed and I created a family photo album, needless to say, I did go bankrupt trying to get this thing published.
Most have never seen any of my images. I have always fallen in between the cracks of success and acceptance and this is basically one of the reasons I founded Our Friendly World; to offer compassion and love for the people that have fallen in between the cracks.
This movement and this podcast is a place to have conversation. It's a place to be heard. I want it to be a safe place and that's what I'm creating. So how did this begin? How did Our Friendly World begin? It started a long time ago with a mentor that I had that I never knew was really watching over me as I was growing up. I grew up in LA. My childhood was interesting.
Growing up, I spent a lot of time alone. I spent a lot of time thinking. There was this one place I would go to. And not until years later, when I was much older that I realized what was really happening, the place that I would go to for, having things become clear to me, it was always one special place that after years later, I realized I was being watched over and gently, wisely guided by this very special, untraditional mentor.
So I'm here with you today, to relay a message from this teacher, my original mentor who watched me grow up. I would go to her every weekend , to gain understanding and perspective on things. She always provided a sense of calm and compassion about the world. For me. One year after a big career move, I was back in Los Angeles once again, where I grew up; a place I had tried to escape from many, many times, but I would get sucked right back to, seemingly totally against my will. I did not want to live there. She wanted me to stay, not for a mere visit. Knowing how upset I was about once again, being stuck in LA, she had a plan. I really didn't have a choice.
I remember in my unruly way, professing that I would only stay for three months." and that's that - just three months! That's it! Okay? I'm gone after three". Well, those three months quickly turned into 12 years of an amazing type of apprenticeship where I was given the tools and insights to share with you today.
Right now, in the midst of everything that's going on in the world, a world that seems so non-friendly, a world that's on fire from environmental issues to social injustice, to a global pandemic is the perfect time to share with you what my mentor showed me. I'm sure , you've heard of this mentor of mine. She's really beautiful. All that is about to be described to you took place over a 12 year period. I mean, the apprenticeship really took place over a 12 year period. And just as magically as it began, it kind of, poof... seemed to go away. My mentor is the city of Santa Monica. She taught me the ins and outs of the fabric of our culture in the United States. Within this tiny little community, I learned more about our humanity, a truly amazing community is and how even in a big city you can have a tribe/village that feels like a tiny town in someplace like Italy that existed back in time.
She taught me about relationships, how to conduct sacred commerce, she introduced me to martial arts, she guided me to true love, and the main thread that weaves everything together, which is the art of friendship.
When my time with Santa Monica came to an end, well, not really an end, but to a kind of a fruition, she wound things down as seamlessly as when she initiated the beginning. When it was time for me to leave, she made it so I would not, could not, look in the rear view mirror as I drove off to my next destination; to my new life with my new husband. I mean, quite literally, I couldn't look back because when we were leaving, when we were driving away, there was a storm brewing, like an actual storm, heavy, heavy rain.
I remember the moving truck and the amazing friend we made with a moving person who was moving us in that truck saying, we have to go now because there's this strange weather pattern forming, and we cannot be on the road. So we either have to go now or wait until the storm passes. We chose to go and literally the storm, it was like a wall behind us as soon as we left.
So I literally couldn't look back in my rear view mirror. It was full on move ahead, move forward and not look back. But then an interesting thing happened. She continued to whisper her teachings in my heart that has now been translated to my husband, and now to our two little girls, and now we feel we need to convey those messages to you through our social movement and through our podcast.
The message is about an epidemic that began in the United States decades ago, spreading around the world. Some nations have actually instated a task force for dealing with this problem. But here in the United States, there is denial. Although since we've had an actual pandemic of a virus going around, I have noticed that people are starting to talk about. This other, epidemic aside from racism. What I'm talking about is loneliness. There have been countries who have their governments creating programs to treat this because they do consider it a disease.
Isolation and loneliness cause problems like health issues. But from what I've noticed, traveling around and paying attention, especially after leaving Santa Monica. is this rapid increase in this kind of behavior.
At first, when we began feeling this feeling of separation, my husband and I thought it was just us, you know, maybe because we moved to this strange new, very quiet place, pretty much on the tip of the United States. And maybe it's just us that maybe somehow we forgot how to make friends. Maybe we had become more discerning. All of a sudden, it was really hard to make friends. And shortly after that, we became parents. Our first child was born and we thought, well, maybe it's because we're parents with a new and different perspective on life, especially having had a life and death experience at the hospital that can really change a person. We blamed ourselves for the lack of friends in our circle, thinking maybe we've just changed so much all of a sudden that we're not able to make friends anymore. So we took things personally. As much as we tried to make friends, it simply wasn't sticking. And having come from Santa Monica, where we were friends with the whole neighborhood this was really tough. I mean, we learned so much, and really understood the art of friendship. All this pain has actually led us to this perfect moment in time, for us to share with you everything we've learned and are continuing to learn.
I just want to explain what we're all about here and the strange things that was happening that we were noticing. I decided to pull all my research together including every photograph that I had taken, all the places that I traveled to. I was thinking about that. And I was starting to really put my notes together and I realized, it's not just us seriously.
I thought it was hard to find the one true love of my life. I thought that was hard. As I was traveling around, walking around the planet, looking for my true love, at the same time I was photographing my projects, I was like:, wow, where is he? I thought that that was really hard to find, you know, your one and only, and one day when my husband and I were walking on the beach in the Pacific Northwest, I was, really thinking about this. And I finally out of frustration said to my husband, this is ridiculous. I thought finding you was difficult, but my God it's like trying to make a friend - it's like dating all over again but this time to find a friend - like a platonic friend .
We could not have anyone come over and join us for a meal. Like the people looked at us like we were crazy. And we noticed that this was happening all over the place. We began to interview people. We were definitely talking to everyone, curious how other people felt about friendship and what constituted friendship to them.
We would walk down, towards where we lived , in the woods, and when we saw other neighbors nearby and we said hello or waived or nodded our heads, that was pretty much the extent of it. That was friendship. They considered that friendship. And I was like, wow, we can't even have dinner together. Like, you really don't know anything about me. And you consider this a friendship. Huh? So then we started researching other countries and what was really going on around the world. And that's when we realized, hey, the UK actually has this program for what they're calling the loneliness epidemic.
Now they seemed to be concentrating on the elderly population. But what we were noticing, especially in the United States was that younger people were lonely. And, you know, I would go back and forth, looking at Canada, the U.S. and the UK and I was talking to people from all around the world about the art of friendship and friendship in general, and the United States seemed to be really off to me in this department.
If I was to have a conversation with someone like my friend, let's just call her Joanne, and I were to ask her if she noticed that people didn't hang out together anymore, like they didn't walk together anymore and that there seemed to be the tendency to use TV shows or movies as their means of having a, kind of a virtual friendship like living vicariously through movies or TV shows as having friendships, people, you can go to brunch with. I would ask Joanne if she noticed that most people didn't seem to have real in person friendships. Joanne would get so defensive, immediately professing to how she had plenty of friends and I'd say to Joanne, that I wasn't talking about her but I was talking about our culture. And yet I would notice Joanne, maybe three months later admit to people that she was lonely and how glad she was to have made new friends. This happened ALOT! And I realized how so many people were secretly lonely, not wanting to admit to it because they were ashamed, because somehow they believed it was their fault.
Really, the truth is that no one wants to admit that they, in fact, don't have friends - as if it's their fault. No one wants to be seen as someone who doesn't have true friends.
In time, more and more people open up to me realizing and admitting that they too are alone. I also confessed that sometimes I would scroll through my phone contacts during hard times, when I really needed someone to hold my hand even if just through the phone, like a voice out there to listen to me, if I were to scroll through my phone, I couldn't think of one person to actually call.
So this one day, as my husband and I were walking and talking about all of this, we jokingly decided to launch a dating service for platonic friendships. And so my husband being this code Poet, this, genius programmer, we started the platonic matchmaking site.
We moved from place to place, we really noticed what was going on and how people were not having conversations. England had their campaign to target the elderly regarding friendship and loneliness. I was looking at our kids who were tiny. When we would take them to the playground, I noticed how everything that the adults were going through, they were only transferring it to their children. The children didn't know how to play together. The children were not social. And looking at England, they were using the children to go up to the elderly community, to bring back conversation, talking to strangers as a means of developing friendships because they felt the kids know how to play together.
Well, I was finding in this culture, they kids did not know how to play together. I mean, our kids would go up to other kids on the playground and with such open arms and open hearts , introduce themselves, start conversations and be met with "Children of the Corn" staring at them. It was really kind of scary. Like they would just stare. Now I am NOT saying every child behaves like this, we have met great people and great kids, but after the 10th, 15th, 20th, 30th, 40th time of this cold interaction, our kids began to lose faith in others and this was really, really hard for us to take.
Santa Monica came whispering back. We remembered the neighborhood where we were all friends, - all community members were friends and business owners were friends. We were all together and our community was. so strong. There were no" isms" going on. There was no ageism. We were all ages and I never, until I left, felt comfortable in my own skin. It was very multicultural. When we moved was when I started to really feel this growing sense of racism. Like it was really bubbling. It was, growing and it was happening really fast
It was really strange going back to the cities that I had lived in before, constantly asking, wow, it happened, wow. People were really angry. And because of the way I look, I started to get a lot of racial stuff thrown at me. I remember even in the Pacific Northwest, walking on the beach with a friend, carrying my daughter in the baby Bjorn, with her facing out with these big, beautiful brown eyes . And I remember this older man who came up to us on the beach as he just looked at me and then my baby. He looked like he had smelled some trash. Like, the corner of his mouth going his face, looking like he's smelled something stinky. And by the way, there was no diaper situation. This man was racist. And he looked at my baby, my beautiful baby. He's like, "brown eyes". And then he started to go on about the first time he saw someone with brown eyes and how despicable he thought that was. This is kind of thing was starting to happen more and more.
And I'd go back to my husband at home. Telling him of such interactions and he would be in disbelief. This kind of thing rarely happened with him by my side. I just noticed this inhospitable kind of feeling in our culture growing. It wasn't just the friendship thing. It was an all around state of dis-ease.
So we decide. Based on what we know from Santa Monica, we want to create a situation where we match people up. As friends, but they have to meet in their own zip code within their own neighborhood mixing with the neighborhood businesses at the time, same time, you know, much like what we experienced in our community in Santa Monica.
And so what was happening was we were actually getting people from all over the world signing up and not pupil from one particular zip code. So we were having trouble matching people within the zip code. So we weren't finding enough people of that zip code to truly make a proper match.
After a while we decided to just temporarily put that site on hold because it was costing us a lot of money to do this. Everything was done really from our own pockets. The site was free, but tallow site, like that was fairly expensive, especially when you have a young family. I just decided, you know what, let's save that money.
Let's figure things out. Let me strategize on how to get our name out there. So there were articles written about us and I was on social media and I was telling everybody what we're about. Just didn't feel like we were getting anywhere. So. I decided to start a different kind of like a normal blog type website.
And now we are obviously starting with this podcast. I hope that there's someone out there listening. What I want to do is just create a space where we have conversation. I will teach you not teach you, but what I'm going to do is relay everything I learned from Santa Monica.
I will tell you all my stories and all the inspiration. I want to have a community. I really want to start a family of friends. I want to bring back the art of friendship, not only within each community, but let's face it. Especially in this country, everything is run by corporations. So I'm going to plead these corporations.
I'm going to come to you. I'm coming to the owners of these corporations and big businesses. I would like to have you, let me coach your team and help you with the tools that I've built, recreate the art of friendship within the offices, within the corporations and within as well as within our own neighborhoods.
That's what our friendly worlds will be about. My host will be my coHEART, my husband, also, once in a while, are our girls. We will have conversation that will span everything. And that's what friendship is about. We will talk about everything, hopefully we'll have some friends listening and participating in our calls.
What I was also about to say was, now that we're in this. Pandemic. We're really, really talking about what has happening all the racial injustice, the economic injustice, all of that. I think if we were to have a conversation where everyone is heard, truly heard and seen, truly seen, and I'll go back to history, like all recall, I'll bring things up that most people.
I guess I have skipped over in school, but we'll talk about where all the strife comes from. And it's from the lack of being heard, the lack of being seen the lack of being understood. So that's my main mission right here is to create an understanding and with that without sounding too hokey. And I'll explain specifically exactly what I mean by this, but with the art of friendship, the art of listening, I do believe that we can have a friendlier world that is.
Free from racism free from economic injustice, a world that is just friendly. All right. I hope you take care.
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Listen to the podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/our-friendly-world-with-fawn-and-matt/id1529286185