“It’s a profound thought…. How everyone is a new door opening into other worlds. Six degrees of separation between us and everyone else on this planet.”

— Unknown

Isn’t it funny that we use the term, “six degrees of separation” to describe the connections we have with other people?  How about “six degrees of connectedness?”  Talk to just about anyone, and they will have a story of the way coincidental meetings led to unexpected introductions and compared notes revealed that they shared common experiences, friends, or even family with a total stranger.

Personally, I love these stories; and I have been known to share them from time to time.  The difference is that I usually omit the word, “coincidence,” from my tales.  I believe that our interconnected existence is no accident; and I believe that our surprising encounters simply serve to illustrate that we are sensitive to the shared experiences, needs, and energies of others.  I believe that when the time is right and necessary for us to meet other travelers, a new path is woven on the web of life so that we can encounter the people who share the need to engage with us.  What are your stories of the sixth degree?

One of my favorites is the way I met my sweetheart.  I suppose you might say that a coworker of mine introduced us; but this is not exactly true.  I had nothing in common with the woman who shared my office space except a job.  I would not take her advice about anything because our views were so very different and our tastes never seemed to overlap.  Still, she is responsible – simply by existing – for making one of the most important connections in my life.  She and I often exchanged barbs.  One of the topics was children.  I had two and she had none.  She often complained that she would like to have kids; but when it came to actually taking the plunge, she was not ready.  When her mother and I attended the same event, and I saw how she enjoyed playing grandma to an adorable little boy, I greeted my coworker with the observation, “Your mom seemed to be having a blast with that little boy last night — when are you going to get going and give her a grandchild?  “Oh,” replied my office mate, “that was my neighbor, Mark’s, son.  You two would like each other.  You’re both weird.”  She then began a campaign of nagging me to call the man I now have loved for 29 years.  The rest is history.  I was not someone who called strange men, but my coworker was; and meeting her built that new strand on the web of life that allowed me to cross into my own future.

About a month ago, I had a check-up with my doctor.  As we sat in the exam room, I could feel my cellphone buzzing in my pocket — One of my kids, no doubt; but it would have to wait until we were done.  As I got into my car, I checked for the missed call.  It was my son, Dan, calling to say that his middle child was on her way to the emergency room.  His wife wanted to know whether I could meet them there and help manage her other two kids.  I called her, only to discover that she already had arrived at her sister’s house and was leaving Chey and Noah with Rachel.  Since everything was under control, I headed for home and made a batch of high-fat yogurt for my little Cheyenne, hoping that the extra calories would boost her ability to gain some weight by eating and someday leave her feeding tube behind.  Only later did I find out that while Rachel helped her sister and I made the yogurt, my doctor’s wife — who I had no idea was a friend of hers — went out of her way to drive Rachel’s son to his camp program.

A month now has passed.  Cheyenne has eaten the yogurt and gained two pounds.  When I think of the story of that day of making the first batch, I have to pause in amazement at how many people, some who never met, were a part of its creation.

Today I made another batch of yogurt; and again I sit at the sixth degree.  For two years, I walked my grand-dog every morning with my neighbor, Michele.  To begin with, I never have wanted to be a dog owner; but when my youngest daughter returned home, a puppy was part of the bargain.  Michele, an art teacher at a local elementary school, found a new job last Spring and moved back to the place where she grew up.  We will skip the coincidence that my son bought her house, because that is not today’s story.  Through the magic of Facebook, Michele and I have kept track of each other’s lives.  This summer, she began posting pleas for people to vote with a radio station for one of her former students to attend a Taylor Swift concert.  Jillian was struggling with leukemia and friends hoped that seeing her favorite singer would lift her spirits.  I voted every day, hoping to help a faceless child realize her dream.  In mid-July, I was asked at the last minute to deliver my friend, Nan, to her knee surgery.  Her planned ride had fallen through, as had my trip out of town for sports with my granddaughter.  Nan was taken back to the prep room for outpatient surgery and I sat for a bit in the waiting room.  A young family came in – mother, father, and little girl in a wheelchair.  When they responded to the call for “Jillian,” I had to wonder whether she might be the same little girl.  Not wanting to intrude, I didn’t ask, instead making small talk about not being morning people.  Later, through a mutual friend, I discovered that indeed it was the same girl.  She is in treatment now and having difficulty eating.  Her religious educator, who is my friend, will be delivering dinner to the family this Thursday; and it will include some of the magic yogurt that helped another little girl who was having trouble eating enough calories to keep her healthy.

Did I mention that my friend who will share the yogurt already knew Cheyenne’s daddy when she and I met through our high-school students?

Six degrees.  Sometimes it seems like there are fewer than six.  What are the stories you have to share that remind us not to feel isolated?  What are the tales that show you again and again that we are all connected?  When we share the stories of our six degrees to connection, we are drawn ever closer to the others who share our planet.  The web is always being woven.  Don’t be surprised when a new path opens.  Simply enjoy the journey to the next shared spot where you will meet another member of the family of man.