Items from the Washington, Illinois tornado that occurred this past Sunday are being retrieved more than a hundred miles from the site. Those who find such items are feeling the need to return them to their owners. They sympathize with the victims who have lost so much and perhaps may gain some comfort from the tidbits of their past.

Seeing stories on the Internet or newspapers and having physical contact with the people, things, or places they are about is a thousand times different. No matter how badly we feel about what we see in the news, a physical connection marks us in a more meaningful and permanent way.

In the early 1990s I tutored a Lebanese student at a community college. His experiences of the unrest at that time in his country disturb me still. During the early years of the US involvement in Iraq, I met a woman from that country. She told me about her life in Iraq and gratitude for the US aid. I also met a woman from Louisiana who lost her home and business in the Katrina hurricane. I can’t let go of what I learned from these people and know the stories they shared have changed me.

We connect with each other in random ways. Even a brief encounter can be significant. A stranger we never will see or hear from again can trigger a new thought that sends our life on an entirely different path.

Sometimes we also meet someone whom we instantly feel comfortable with. I recently sat next to a woman on a plane who I hope to keep in touch with. Like old friends, Donna and I shared some of our deepest concerns.

We talk about how we are all connected in this world and encounters such as these prove it. Basically, we all want the same things – peace, happiness, good health, to feel loved, and to have people to love. We want employment that is emotionally and financially rewarding, and the ability to live freely and without fear for our personal and loved ones’ safety.

Perhaps today you will receive the gift of connecting with someone who touches you. When our minds and hearts are open to surprise encounters, the possibility for personal and global change is endless.

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

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