Monday, May 5, 2008

Six Degrees of Separation Makes for a Really Small World

I grew up in a church that while small, is a worldwide church. Going to various meetings with my parents growing up meant I met other kids whose fathers also were ministers in my church. Later, when I headed off to college at the church university, I ran into these same people. It was like having a long lost cousin on campus with you. Kids I'd gone to camp with were in the rooms next door. I remember hanging out with one kid at a church meeting one time where we hid under the basement steps in a college building and yodeled. I never did get a chance to ask him if he remembered that but we were at college together.

As I got older and went to church meetings myself or family camps, I started running in to people who knew someone I knew or even knew my parents. People I grew up with who ran the district I was in are now world church leaders. I've sat down on more than one occasion and chatted with the president of my church. Once was even after a visit to a local casino! He knows who I am and knows my parents.

Having grown up like that I've always known that the world wasn't nearly as big as other people let on. I had church family in Africa, Australia, Europe, etc. There aren't many places I can go where I won't run into someone who knows someone I know. It's not even six degrees of separation.

It becomes a little more unbelievable when I start running into random people throughout the country who have connections to me. I first started noticing this in pharmacy school. Before I even started pharmacy school I was told pharmacy is a small world. Don't burn bridges in pharmacy because you'll run into someone who knew someone who knew someone. So, occasionally, I'll pick up the phone at work and it's someone I know on the other end at some pharmacy across town. Or, every once in awhile it's a pharmacist in another state who went to school with the pharmacist I'm working with. Small world, yes.

Then in March, like I said in my previous post, I went to South Dakota for a week. Pine Ridge Reservation is about seven hours from the Omaha Indian Reservation I grew up on. I didn't expect to meet anyone who had connections to me. I expected to feel a little bit like I was going home but running into people who had connections to me just stunned me! By the end of the second day there I'd met a cousin of my elementary librarian. My librarian's daughter was my sister best friend when we were on the Reservation. I was the bratty little sister who tagged along EVERYwhere and drove them crazy! So, I thought it was cool that I'd made a connection to my past. A few days later, while talking to this same person, I found out something that didn't quite sink in right away as to the impact it had on my own life. My parents moved to the Indian Reservation right before I was born. Indian Health Service hospitals don't deal with white patients so my parents would have to drive back across the state lines into Iowa to a hospital where I was born. The Missouri River runs along the Nebraska/Iowa border so in order to get to the hospital my parents had to cross a bridge. The bridge they crossed (unlike in cities around New England) was the only way to the hospital without taking hours of back roads to find another bridge. Well, it turned out that this same person, the cousin of my elementary librarian, built the bridge my parents drove across. He wasn't the only one who built it of course but when I stop and think about it, if that bridge wasn't there, wow, my life could have been dramatically different! I was born on a Sunday at 1:13 in the afternoon. About four hours before that, my parents were trying to decide if they should go to church. Just think, if that bridge hadn't been there, who knows where I might have been born!

A second random connection that happened on the reservation in South Dakota nearly left me speechless. As part of our trip, we drove around and toured some of the schools including Red Cloud School, a private catholic school. It has a museum and gift shop there. When we were walking through the gift shop I noticed a wall covered in beautiful quilts and decided I was going to come back and check them out after the museum. When I came back I asked if I could see this beautiful red, white and blue quilt. They all were the same pattern, the sacred morning star pattern, but they were all many different colors and sizes. The one I fell head over heals for happened to be a queen sized quilt which is what size bed I have. I decided I had to have it! I asked the sales lady if she knew who made it and she did not. A few days later, on the other side of the reservation, we were holding a health fair, checking blood pressure and glucose at an elders center. The elders center was serving meals for the local seniors and we were doing our thing when this woman walked up to me and started talking. Turns out she was the president of the elders center there. She also teaches Lakota language at the Head Start (preschool) and cares for her disabled husband. She had been there earlier to pick up lunch for her and her husband and taken it home. Someone called her to come back when they heard that the program ( we had come with had a donation for her group. This is when I met her. In her spare time (which I'm not sure when that would be) she makes quilts, the sacred morning star quilt. She asked me if I'd ever seen one and I said yes, I had bought one the other day at Red Cloud School. She told me that she makes quilts for them and so I described the quilt I had bought. Turns out she made it! I was speechless! I gave her a big hug, which I think made her think I was crazy but what I didn't tell anyone is this: My grandmother used to make all of her grandchildren quilts when they graduated from school. The quilt she made me when I graduated from high school was red, white and blue but it was for a twin bed. I feel like I was drawn to this particular quilt because I feel like it reminds me of my grandma and I graduate from grad school this month. I love it! I think of how we're all connected every time I see that quilt and remember my grandma. Somehow, I think that quilt was made for me and was there at that time and place just for me. It's kind of cool to think about.

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