The lives we unknowingly touch

I’m a bit pensive this morning, so here I go again.

I got a phone call Wednesday from Hawaii. It was from my old boss at KGMB-TV, Dick Grimm. He was offering condolences and sharing insight he’d gained when his wife passed away two years ago. I’d not heard from him since leaving that job over 15 years ago, and it was as if no time whatsoever had passed. Life’s like that. Time is an illusion, and linear time is a created dimension. All that’s real is the here and now, but I digress.

Dick is now president of the Hawaii Foodbank, an organization that I (apparently) energized and invigorated by creating a food drive to feed the poor in that state in 1989. They’ve just completed their 17th annual food drive — still with the help of KGMB — having gathered 750,000 pounds of food and a half million dollars in cash. Dick said he uses my name every time he tells the story of the Hawaii Foodbank. I was a bit taken aback, because I’d long ago forgotten that effort by our news team and station.

But it really blessed me and got me to thinking about the lives we unknowingly touch — for good or bad — as we travel this life. We read about it from the philosophers and the theologians and can find examples throughout the history books, but rarely do we ever stop and consider the seemingly insignificant lives we encounter and the seemingly insignificant moments of our own existence. We are not alone, friends, and no life is meaningless, for if one were truly meaningless, all would be meaningless.

We are spiritual beings on a human journey, not the other way around, and in a very tangible way, the web is making that more apparent. We don’t “come into being” at human birth, and we don’t “cease to be” when we die. It is only our human journey that begins and ends. And our connections with each other, therefore, exist in two realms. One is physical, but the other is free of the physical.

The non-physical connection was made abundantly clear to me on April 25th, when my beloved Allie’s human journey ended. A handful of people have grasped the significance of what I’m saying and have written about it over the past week. One is Jackie Danicki. Read and ponder what she wrote, because it’s important.

I don’t think people have actually grasped the extent to which social media is changing, and will continue to change, humanity.

The most basic way that social media has changed the way that I (and many people I know) interact is that we are growing used to being able to meet individuals� minds before we meet them physically.

…Individuals are the basic unit not just of any business, but of this world, and those who think the blogosphere is some kind of blessed embrace of collectivism or Marxism are wrong for precisely this reason: It is the ease with which individuals can connect with one another across this network which brings about the spectacular effects that it does. There is no top-down imposition on these individuals. There is no governing body deciding what each individual’s “needs” and “abilities” are, or how frivolous or worthy those might be. These are millions of individuals deciding for themselves what is in it for them, and getting from it what they want. Sometimes that’s a recipe or a video of someone singing a stupid song, and sometimes it’s comfort after the death of a child or loved one.

If you think that’s not going to continue to have hugely positive implications for us and this planet, think again.

I would add that we’re not just meeting people in the cognitive realm; we’re also meeting at core — through our hearts — and I agree that this has profound ramifications for the future of the planet.

Just as Paul Lurie wrote that the structure of the web — with its highly associative, endlessly referential and contingent environment, and its process for finding information — will ultimately tilt the culture war to the left (great long tail article), Ms. Danicki is suggesting that the web’s highly social character will also tilt the culture to, I imagine, one that’s more connected and therefore tolerant. This is a good thing, I think.

And so as I sit here today thinking about my life and the life I had with Allie, I’m struck with this whole “connected” thing and how an event 17 years ago in Hawaii created a ripple effect that continues today. It’s not about gun belt notches, brownie buttons or “well done, thou good and faithful servant.” These things are simply reminders that we were here. And in the end, it’s not what we’ve gained through all the other lives we’ve encountered, but what we gave to the process of life.

When I was at the hospital waiting for the doctor to give us the bad news, I was frantically trying to purchase a coke for Alicia’s mother from the machine in the waiting room. I only had a dollar and the price was $1.25. I was frustrated, crying and in obvious distress, and a middle-aged Hispanic woman who was also in the waiting room got up from her chair and put a quarter in my hand. She spoke no English, but the look in her eyes said she understood.

No life is meaningless, and we are all connected.

Allie touched thousands of people in her too-short life. I know, because I’ve heard from many of them. She’s now touched many more in her death, and I know that makes her smile. You were here, myAllie. You were really here.


  1. Bono sang it best: “I can’t change the world, but I can change the world in me.”

    That’s where it all begins.

  2. Yes, she was here — and because of your generosity in sharing her story and your relationship, she is now a blessing to us all.

  3. Thanks for writing this, Terry.

  4. I’ve been away in France, Terry, where you and Allie have been on my mind. It was a busy trip, full of family duties, but I actually made the time to write the intro to that book — thanks to you. Seriously: Thank you, and Allie.

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