Sunday, March 9, 2008

Small World Stories

Everybody has one: proof that the world is growing smaller. Usually a small-world-story is about some amazing coincidence, like running into a friend in a foreign country or on a cruise ship.

I tell one about a family reunion: I was living in North Carolina; I went to Virginia for my wife's family reunion, and saw a familiar face that belonged to someone who had married one of my wife's cousins. He was from a town in Texas that I had never visited. We talked, and discovered that we attended the eighth grade together in South Carolina.

But now the stories are changing. Technology is making the world a much smaller place, with people world-wide a cell-phone call away. It's even smaller since many calls are covered in "circle" or "fave" plans, or since many of us just get all long-distance calls covered in our plans.

Last week I got a call from Colleen, my daughter, who is a student at NYU in New York (city). She asked me if I had heard anything about something happening in Times Square. She said people were talking about a blast there. I hadn't heard, but I told her to hold on a sec; I'd Google News. I read her an article about a small bomb going off at 3:45 a.m. in front of a military recruiters' office in Times Square. It seemed to provide her with a bit of clarity. (I assume that she was walking between classes at the time, somewhere around 8th St. and Lafayette St.) She said thanks and hung up.

It's now a small world when a person in New York calls Richmond, VA, to find out about something that has happened about 35 blocks away from her.

It's a small world when a soldier in Iraq can call home several times a week. Or when we can see exactly what's happening there as it happens on TV or our web-enabled cell phones.

And, unfortunately, it's a small world when malicious gossip about politicians or celebrities is spread around the world nearly instantaneously by any poor grouch with a differing political opinion or a grudge.

Being in such a small world requires more judgment that we used to need. We need to know who to trust, and we need to not believe everything we see on our computer or cell-phone screens. Places like help, but don't replace good judgment or a forgiving spirit.

The world will continue to grow smaller. May we meet the challenge with judgment and grace.

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