Just because you don’t know them, doesn’t mean they aren’t family.

There is a book titled “Innumeracy”  that talks about our numerical illiteracy.  In the book, John Allen Paulos suggests that we are connected to every person on earth by no more than three or four acquaintances.   That is, every person you meet is at least acquainted with someone who is acquainted with someone you know.  There is a Wikipedia article on the Six Degrees of Separation, suggesting that everyone is, on average, approximately six steps away from any other person on Earth.

You’ve probably heard that you should be nice to everyone, because you don’t know what someone else might be going through.  I’m here to tell you, you better be nice to everyone, and keep your happy face on, because they just might know your family – they could even BE your family.

One of the few times we went skiing when we lived in Colorado, I met a guy on the ski lift who lived in my Dad’s hometown (very small town in Kansas), and was well acquainted with my uncle and cousins.

While working for J-M in Colorado, I was on a trip to Ruston, LA where I ran into my wife’s uncle in McDonald’s.  When I approached him and said “I think I know  you,” he said “No, I don’t think you do!”  After I told him who I was, he relented and we had a good visit.

And this week…well, it’s almost unbelievable.

A couple of months ago I was assigned a new role to provide services to the Shell Pipeline group, including some offshore operations.  So, this week I flew out to a couple of platforms to have a look at what I’m in for, and answer some questions for them.  (My first helicopter ride – but that’s another story.)  One of the platforms is operated by Shell Exploration and Production (E&P), but is transitioning to the pipeline group.

While we were eating lunch, the E&P superintendent mentioned living near Texarkana.  Someone asked what town.  He said Atlanta.  I said I knew a few people in Atlanta, that my mother grew up in Rodessa, and that in his later years my grandfather had married a lady in Atlanta – but I couldn’t remember Blanche’s last name.  He said “Is your last name Selman?”

“Well,” I said, “my mother’s maiden name was Selman.”  And he said “My mother was Blanche.”

Makes me wonder how often we meet someone without knowing how connected we are.  Or how often we pass someone on the street without meeting them, and knowing how connected we are.


About Joe

Writing on the things I'm passionate about: my family, my faith, and my work. View all posts by Joe

3 responses to “Connections

  • Aunt Jean

    Who would think that out there on that great big body of water on a little bitty platform, you would encounter someone so close…..your Mom’s step-brother! Like you said, we should be nice to everybody. Angels unaware!

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  • Aunt Jean

    A short time ago, we were visiting some folks here in Jacksonville and the wife said her husband was going to a reunion in Grapeland. I said Robert has kin in Grapeland, that his grandmother was a Cunningham. She said Bill had Cunninghams in his lineage. I then told her Grandma Selman’s mother was a Walling and she said Bill had Wallings in his lineage. We have known these folks for years and turns out Robert and Bill are distant cousins!

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