It’s a Small World After All

I doubt that many people who’ve been to Disneyland or Disney World left without having their fill of the song “It’s a Small World After All.” Personally, I’m still sick of it!

But that doesn’t mean I’m not conscious of “small world coincidences.” Let me share a few I know about.

Karen was one of the young ladies in the Baptist Student Union at Frostburg State College (now University). That’s in western Maryland, if you’re not familiar with it. I graduated in 1968. In 1984, when we moved to Richmond, Virginia, we joined the church Karen’s father had once pastored.

Okay, that wasn’t a huge “small world” illustration. Let me try again.

One Black Friday while I was still working at Target, I’d been stuck in Electronics; I’d never worked that area before. Let me tell you–that’s a busy place on Black Friday! One customer looked at my name tag, which only said, “Roger.” Then she asked, “Is your last name Bruner?”

Lo and behold, she was a former English student of mine from two hundred miles away and more than thirty years after I taught her.

And do you know what was really weird? She recognized me by my voice!

I used to have a good friend in Australia. At that time she was working for an American company that did business in Oz. She told me about a friend she had in America and one she had in South Africa. Somehow she learned that those two people were friends with one another–and it had nothing to do with their friendships with her.

That was pretty wild, wasn’t it?

Then there’s the lady I used to work with. This was at least twenty or twenty-five years ago. She told the story of baby sitting at the home of a song writer in Memphis when the doorbell rang. The song writer was getting ready to go out, so this lady answered the door, only to be facing Elvis face-to-face.

She was so shocked that she closed the door and went to find the song writer, who assured her it was okay to let Elvis in. He was so pleased at being treated like a regular person that he invited the baby sitter to a meal at Graceland. That was before he’d fixed it up as much as he did later.

He sent a limo to pick her up, and after the meal they sat in the entertainment room looking through old photo albums.

In 2003 I married Kathleen. Several years later I learned that one of her sisters-in-law was one of the kids being baby sat that evening while her dad–song writer, musician, and recording engineer Stan Kesler–went out.

Stan is still alive, but in poor health. I feel blessed to have met him.

Do you have a “small world” experience you’d like to share? I’d love to hear it.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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The Facebook in the Mirror (Part Two)

Jenny     Southern Fried Sushi book cover           

If you missed my previous post, The Facebook in the Mirror, you might want to read it before you read this post. I gave several examples of how Facebook has helped me to reconnect with my past, and this one will give several additional examples.

After graduating from college in 1968, I taught junior high English for six-plus years. I thought the kids were great, but the demands on my free time were a real drag. And—years later when I took the Myers-Briggs Inventory—I learned that I am a confirmed introvert.

Not “introvert” as in “very shy person.” But as in “energized by being by myself or among a VERY small group of close friends and totally worn out by being around people in general.” Hmm. Not good for a teacher.

When I discovered Facebook, I couldn’t keep from wondering what had become of my former students. I’m not pretending I could remember all of them—I had trouble remembering some names from the current school year. But I tried one name—I don’t remember who was first—and hit pay dirt.

And—lo and behold—he or she accepted my friend request and seemed genuinely happy to hear from me.

I tried more and more. When I couldn’t remember more names, I checked the friends list of the ones I’d been able to friend and sent many of them friend requests. I’ve ended up with quite a list, and I’m thrilled to report that at least one of them became a teacher. But even more amazing, some of my former students actually credited me with having taught them something.

Truly amazing. I didn’t feel that great about my teaching.

One of my former students is Tom. The top right pictures are Tom then and now. He’s lived and worked in Colombia (yes, the country in South America) for a number of years. He writes poetry and is a chef at his own restaurant. And—doggone it!—he beats the pants off me in Words with Friends. I learned recently that he was responsible for getting a poem of mine published in a free local magazine during the mid-seventies.

Tom is  a reconnect I highly value.

The other Facebook reconnect I want to mention today was a young lady (I call her my sister) who went on the same mission trip I did in 2000 to the Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Jenny and I both worked at the same place and were sitting beside one another when we heard about the mission trip to Oz. I still have a picture of us returning on the train from a day trip to Sydney, both of us snoozing, her head innocently on my shoulder.

We lost track of one another when she went to Japan as a Journeyman missionary (two-year program for recent college graduates). A few years later, one of her former co-workers told me Jenny had married a Brazilian and moved to Brazil.

How does a guy track down his missing “sister” when she’s that far away and he doesn’t even know her married name?

Facebook, of course. When we reconnected, it was like we’d never been apart.

But what makes our story special is Jenny had spent some of her free time in Brazil writing her first novel. I asked her to email it to me, and my wife and I had a great time reading it.

In fact, it was so good I had her write a proposal for me to forward to my publisher. That resulted in a three-book contract for Jenny’s Southern Fried Sushi series. If you don’t know much about writing and publishing, let me share this: practically nobody gets a contract for a first novel from the first publisher she submits a proposal to.

You’ll see Jenny with a toothbrush in her mouth on the train ride to Sydney and the cover of her first novel to Tom’s left at the top of the page.

Facebook has helped me to look into the mirror and see some wonderful parts of my past, along with the chance to bring certain aspects of the past up to date.

If you have any special Facebook or Twitter tales to share, I’d love to hear them. Just leave a comment.

Best regards,
Roger

The Facebook in the Mirror (Part One)

 Flatlanders     RogerWillSinging

To fully appreciate today’s topic, you need to understand a few things about my background. If you find it boring, that’s because I am boring. But that’s a topic for another day.

I grew up the only child of a Christian minister. Because my parents adopted me directly from the hospital back in the olden days, I know absolutely nothing about my birth parents except the fact they were artistic (but who knows in what way?) and had an eastern European heritage. I don’t even know their medical history.

My parents both died during the latter 1900s, and I have only a handful of relatives left. I barely know the ones on my father’s side, and I don’t even know where the ones on my mother’s side are, even though they theoretically live in the same city I do.

In short, I’m a sixty-seven-year-old orphan who’s extremely thankful to have such a sweet and loving wife. But that’s not what this post is about, either.

I’ve had plenty of friends over the years, but—with moves from state to state and city to city and even from church to church—I’ve lost touch with most of them.

What’s happened to my past?

When I first discovered Facebook, I couldn’t imagine what a gold mine it would prove to be. At first, I only friended the people who belonged to my current life.

But then I caught on that Facebook could be a window to my past. Sure, not everyone I used to know was on Facebook, and sometimes the women didn’t include their maiden names in their profile names. But I started to catch up with people I thought I’d never see or hear from again.

Two examples.

I sang with Will in a folk trio in the early 1960s. That’s us in the left-hand picture at the top of this post. I moved away after graduation in 1964. I saw him again once during the 1980s, but lost track of him again soon thereafter.

But—lo and behold—I had no trouble locating him on Facebook, and we got together for a wonderful afternoon of catching up this past September. He still had the same guitar he’d had in our folk singing days (I’d been through many guitars since then), and we lumbered our way through the song I’d written as our theme song—the first song among more than two hundred. That’s one of our reunion photos at the right.

The second example.

Sally was a friend in high school. We didn’t exactly date, although she came with me a time or two to the folk trio’s performances. I saw her once during the summer of 1965, and then she proceeded to pass out of my memory for many years.

When I thought about Sally again and found her on Facebook, I learned that she now lives in the same city my wife and I live in, and the three of us have gotten together a number of times now. She’s not only become one of my novels’ biggest fans, but has purchased copies to give away.

I can only shake my head in amazement. And deep appreciation.

When I first entered the world of personal computing, Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist. In fact, what I thought of a personal computer was actually a terminal connected to one of the Digital VAX minicomputers in the Arctic-frigid computer room.

Now it’s truly personal—all the way to my smart phone and my Kindle Fire.

I have several other tales to share about my experiences with Facebook, but I’ll save them for Part Two of this topic.

Please leave a comment. Are you a Facebook user? Have you found any missing friends that way? Do you have any special stories to share? I’d love to hear them.

Best regards,
Roger