I had an experience last week that reminded me of a unique “phenomenon.” Six degrees of separation. Ever heard of it?
“Six degrees of separation” (also known as the “Human Web”) refers to the idea that everyone is at most six steps away from any other person on Earth, so that a chain of ‘a friend of a friend’ statements can be made to connect any two people in six steps or fewer.” (Wikipedia)
I’d heard of this “phenomenon” prior to entering my unexpected life, but it has proven true over and over again as I’ve lived it.
Several months ago, a co-worker of mine was curious about a bachelor I was dating, input the bachelor’s name into Facebook, and up popped a mutual friend my co-worker and the bachelor had! What is that? Two degrees of separation. My co-worker joked, “Should I ‘friend’ the man you’re dating? Wouldn’t THAT be funny?”
Then I met my birth mother only to discover her best friend and college roommate was a friend of mine in Colorado! One degree of separation.
Then last week at my company’s summer party, the COO’s wife introduced herself to me and told me we have a mutual friend. She said her cousin, one of her closest friends, is a friend of mine from Colorado. (And although she was kind enough not to mention it, her cousin is also a victim of my former spouse.)
I hadn’t heard from my friend since the tragic revelations last year, so I was surprised when the COO’s wife told me she had a message for me from her. Suddenly I couldn’t breathe; I didn’t dare breathe. I felt sick. I thought, “Is this how the rest of my life will be? No matter where I go, no matter how much time passes, no matter how much I rebuild my life, am I never going to be free from the tentacles of my former spouse and the crimes he committed?”
I wondered how I was going to be able to endure it. For the rest of my life. I braced myself for the “message.” I’ve received enough of those to worry it wasn’t going to be a positive experience for me. Then I wondered if I was about to be suddenly thrust onto a path that was the beginning of the end to losing my job. (A little paranoid on my part. O.k., a lot paranoid. But such are the scars of blissfully living your life until the day you find out it has all been a lie, that you are left with nothing and are alone to provide for and raise your children.)
Shame on me for thinking that.
Instead, the message was, “She wants you to know she loves you, she LOVES you, she loves you…” and she hugged me.
I honestly don’t know what the rest of the message was, because as soon as I heard that first part, I couldn’t hear anything else. Tears were streaming down my cheeks. I was overwhelmed, again, at the kindness and goodness of people. And I was chatting with the cousin and friend of one of them.
It’s in the most unexpected places and manifests itself in the most unexpected moments, but it’s there. And I’m so grateful that it is. Another person betrayed by my former husband and yet, instead of reacting with hatred and venom, she has chosen another course. Maybe a harder path in some ways (it seems like the natural inclination might be that it’s easier to give in to anger and hatred and retaliate “an eye for an eye” rather than respond with forgiveness) but such goodness is a better way to live, for sure.
She may have lost her money, but she didn’t lose what matters most; what is truly of value. Ponzi scheme or not, poor economy notwithstanding, “Goodness is the only investment that never fails.” (Henry David Thoreau)
There may be “six degrees of separation” (or less!) to any other person on earth. But I believe there is even less than that to get to the heart of the goodness of others. And that inspires me.
“It is not what they profess but what they practice that makes them good.” (Greek Proverb)
So there I sat, tears streaming down my cheeks at a company party at a park in the summertime in Utah. Struck, not for the first time, by the impact our choices have on others. Touched by the effect one woman’s choice had on me. And awed by the strength, courage and example of one who practices what she has professed to be.
It made a difference in my life. At my company picnic. I never expected that.