When I was in junior high school, I remember having a brief glimpse of a drama unfolding at a side street as my mother drove me home. Two kids were engaged in a fight in the middle of the street, their bikes laying on the ground. One boy was in a head-lock, while the other kid pounded on his face while the small crowd around them watched. I barely had time to register the scene before we were gone - perhaps no more than ten seconds had gone by. I didn't know the kids, and I certainly didn't know how the fight progressed. Did the kid pounding the other kid get in trouble? Was he the aggressor. Or did the other kid start the fight and pick the wrong kid to bully? Did anyone get in trouble? Do either of them remember the confrontation today?
A few years back, my niece and I were traveling on the freeway and massed through an interchange that was rapidly backing up. We reached the reason for the back-up - a violent automobile crash. In the ten seconds the accident was in our view, I remember but one detail - a woman's arm hanging weakly from a car window. Was she dead? Or unconscious and not yet attended to? Was she responsible for the accident? Was she a victim of someone else, perhaps a drunk driver? How did her injury or death effect the world around her? And what are the consequences of that horrible incident to which I had the briefest connection?
Or are these connections as brief as they look? As social networking sites sometimes show us, we're more interconnected then we think. My friend Andrew Tarr has a birthday gala a few months back. I've known Andrew for several years. He spent his childhood in New Jersey and Vermont. I spent mine in New York and California. We're a few years apart in age. Yet, at his party, a friend of his approached me. He'd been researching some memories from his childhood - places he and I had in common, and which led him to my blog. That's where he discovered that Andrew Tarr was a mutual friend. As it turns out, this individual not only grew up in my neighborhood, but on my street. He'd been probably a dozen or more houses down the road and around a curve, but we'd been there at the same time. He was a couple of years younger, however, so naturally, in kid law, I wouldn't have been friends with him. Yet, we shared the same place memories, we knew some of the local vendors who served the neighborhood (the guy who our parents hired to wax the floors, or the guy who drove the Good Humor ice cream truck). We probably crossed paths numerous times. If it had been him engaged in that street fight I witnessed, I would never know that we were connected.
In smaller towns and simpler times, everyone knew one another, and were interconnected. Perhaps we don't know our neighbors as much anymore - but the connections, now intricately woven and mostly hidden, still exist - just below the surface.