Many of you have heard about the theory which states that all people are 7 degrees from any other person. Some say that it’s proof that we are all connected somehow, through someone. That may very well be true. But in the end, I think that there is an even closer connection which binds us. Yes, I could tell you that we are all children of God… its true after all. But, I am thinking of something much more concrete. Let me take you through my reasoning… ready, set, go!
Today, I began my day as I usually do, over a cup of freshly brewed African coffee, this time from Zambia. As I sat sipping my café latté, I wondered what other women were doing. One of the cooperative members in Uganda had messaged me earlier in the day to update me of their progress on an order. Then, my thoughts trailed to how glad I was to have the time to call my sister in Germany this weekend. And then my mind drifted to the friend that I knew I’d be having breakfast with. I knew that she was busy getting ready to take some packages over to the post office.
I probably sound a little scatter-brained right now; but these kinds of thoughts run through my head from time to time. “While I am sitting here doing this; what are other people doing right now?” Once, while driving to the airport; I was talking with one of my children about the people in “all of those cars”. There we were on one of the busiest freeways in the world, when I thought to myself “there are so many people on the road right now. I wonder where they are going… what their stories are”. I told her about a game that we used to play with my father when we travelled. If we were stuck in a train station or airport waiting (sometimes for hours), my father would keep us busy by playing a game. We would take turns playing “Who and why?” Seeing a man rush to catch a train, we’d imagine who is was and why he was travelling. I’d guess: “He is a business man just finishing a trip to a far-away city and he’s rushing because he wants to make it home to his son’s football game.” My brother would chime in: “No, he is a secret agent who is late for a very important meeting with another spy in England!” That game is something that I still do, now with my own children. On a practical level, it is a fun way to pass the time. But, I think that without knowing it, my dad taught me that people all have a story. We weren’t the only ones waiting for the train and each of those other people had their own lives, their own struggles and their own joys.
We spend a lot of time passing strangers each day. Somewhere, right now, someone’s cousin is brushing his hair before he goes to work. Right now, there is a mother dusting off her child after a fall and kissing him. At this moment, someone is wishing that a friend didn’t cancel their plans to meet for dinner. The thing is, as we live our own lives, so often at a hectic pace; millions of people, billions really… are living their lives in the same way.
It sounds so obvious when you state it that way. It sounds almost silly in fact. But, I promise you, I do have a point. Although we are separate, we are also linked in ways we’d never even imagine! I’ve had countless conversations with people I didn’t know at all (a random encounter while waiting in line at the bank or sitting on a bench watching my children play at the park). And in each of those conversations I quickly come to understand that we are connected in one way or another. It might be the places we’ve lived or visited. It could be that we have a friend in common or both love the same style of art or music. But never, not ever, have I talked to a person for more than 10 minutes and thought that we weren’t linked somehow.
My thoughts this morning seemed random; but I think of them as a reminder. We are all connected to each other… one by one… like beads on a necklace. We aren’t connected through a friend of a friend who knows someone who knows someone. We are directly connected, we just don’t know how in most cases. I’m sure that if I had bumped into any of those people on the freeway under different circumstances and we had the time to take 10 minutes to know each other a little bit; we would have learned what links us.
In Africa, we often call anyone old enough to be our mother, “mama”, and anyone our age “sister” or “brother”. Perhaps it’s because we have always known it. We are connected, the glue is different (faith, culture, language or interests); but we are always connected.
So, the next time you pass someone on the street that looks different than you; try to find the common point. The next time that you read a book about a character in history or think about a person that you are sure is nothing at all like you; tell yourself that you are connected… somehow. Not in that distant, theoretical way that they talk about; but in a real-world kind of way.