It IS a Small World After All!

small world


Even at age fifty four I’m constantly blown away by things I didn’t know before.  It’s almost as if the older I get, the less I know.  By the time I’m eighty I’ll be completely ignorant.  Perhaps senility has something to do with it, and if it is, my hat’s off to it (just so I can get some air up there).  And I’m not talking about the typical ‘Did you know if a frog had wings it wouldn’t bump its butt every time it hopped’, type of knowledge, either.  I had to go to the Veterans Hospital in Birmingham a while back to get set up for a sleep study (I can hardly wait to get my very own Darth Vader mask!), and the sixty-something year old driver of the DAV transport’s name was Foy James.  Well, my mom’s maiden name was James, and there is a whole slew of James hanging out in Walker County, Alabama.  I got to talking with this fellow, and he said his grandfather told him when he was a kid that HIS grandfather had a brother who settled down in Walker County.  Well, the more we talked, the more it occurred to us that we were related, which kind of blows my mind because what were the odds of us meeting and being relatives?  I moved back to Alabama in 2005 to be closer to my sisters and cousins, but I had no idea I’d have distant kinfolk crawling all over the hills.  If a casual conversation with a van driver can reveal a shared bloodline, I’d be willing to bet I’ve been bumping into cousins and such all along (unless I had wings).  I like to joke around and say everyone in Alabama is related to each other, but I had no idea they were all related to me!

Like I said, what are the odds?  Math hurts my brain, so I’m not even going to try, but there are seven billion people in the world, and three hundred million people in the United States.  If I had more fingers and toes I’d be able to tell you how many cousins I know about, but this fellow was definitely not one of them!  Makes me wonder how many folks marry relatives and don’t know it.  Hopefully more than do know it.  Once my ex-wife and I were talking about our ancestors and we discovered that we both had Jacksons in our family tree.  I was quick to change the subject.  On a related subject, I used to have fun with my sisters when they were little – I think torment would be a better word – by coming up to them and saying, “Ewww!  You’ve got ancestors!”  They would start crying and say “NO I DON’T!” then run to mom and dad and complain.  That’s about the time I discovered what whippings were.  I did something similar with my daughter when she was just a sprout.  I’d walk up to her and say “Oh my God!  Your epidermis is showing!”  That’s when my ex- taught me what it meant to be in the doghouse.  But back to the subject.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been reminded just how small the world is.  While in the Army I had a female acquaintance stationed in Natick, Massachusetts.  We only had a handful of opportunities to see each other whenever I visited the base there, and our relationship never grew serious.  Eight years later I attended a seminar in Atlanta and was at the Peachtree Convention Center, riding down an escalator in a crowd of people.  As I casually looked over the teeming mass, I saw this young lady coming up the escalator next to me!  I quickly got her attention by acting like a fool (an act I’ve honed to perfection) and we had a pleasant afternoon together.  She was there for a completely different reason, so it wasn’t like we had been drawn to the same place because of similar interests.  I never forgot the incident, obviously, and still marvel over it.  I’m deliberately not calling it a coincidence because I don’t believe in them.  If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that there are no coincidences or accidents.  Everything happens for a reason.  The trick is figuring out the reason.  That’s the mystery of life, I suppose.

Once when I was a cab driver in Washington, DC, I had two women in my cab that I had picked up from different places.  I don’t know about how it is now, but the company I worked for back then had DC broken up into sectors, and it was common for a cabbie to pick up people from one zone and carry them to other zones that were connected.  All very technical, you know.  Anyway, I had these two women in my backseat and they were talking.  As it turns out, they had attended the same elementary school in New York City twenty years earlier and had been best friends.  Well, we were all completely stunned.  They were crying and hugging each other and I was in the front seat wishing I had someone to hug at that moment.

I’m sure we all have similar stories.  It just offers proof, to me, at least, that not only is the world getting tinier, the degrees that separate us are sometimes non-existent.  This realization keeps me looking at the faces in crowds no matter where I am, just in the off chance I’ll run across an old friend or relative.  Who knows?  You may be living next to an old school chum from half a world away and half a lifetime ago, or you may very well be working in the same office with a distant cousin.  I’d bet if we knew just how connected we are, we’d never meet a stranger.

About jaytharding
Christian Mystic-in-training, burgeoning Apologist, Writer, Poet, Philosopher, all-purpose curmudgeon Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 11 Corinthians 5:17

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