It’s a Small World—We’re More Connected Than We Know

It’s a Small World—We’re More Connected Than We Know April 18, 2024

The worst song in the world is “It’s a Small World After All.” Yet, as horrible as the song is, the sentiment is true. We’re all connected.

Hands with map of the world painted on them. Clouds in background
Image by stokpic from Pixabay

“It’s a small world.” We all say it when we bump into someone and discover a coincidental connection. However, that phrase is mildly triggering for me. When I was a kid, my family vacationed at Disney World. We had a fantastic time—except on the Small World ride. Something on the track malfunctioned, and we got stuck for over an hour. Imagine the schmaltzy animatronics’ nonstop singing:

 

It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears

It’s a world of hopes, and a world of fears

There’s so much that we share

That it’s time we’re aware

It’s a small world, after all.

 

It’s a small world, after all

It’s a small world, after all

It’s a small world, after all

It’s a small, small, world.

 

There is just one moon, and one golden sun

And a smile means friendship to everyone

Though the mountains are wide

And the oceans divide

It’s a small world, after all.

 

Yes—I typed out those lyrics from memory. By the time we escaped the ride, I never wanted to get on it again. But one thing remains burned in my psyche—It is indeed a small world.

 

Degrees of Separation

Frigyes Karinthy first pioneered the concept of six degrees of separation. Pick any two random people on the planet. One is you, and the other is, let’s say, Pope Francis. Likely, you don’t know the Vicar of Christ personally, but maybe you know someone who is Roman Catholic. That’s one degree of separation, between you and your RC friend. She knows a priest in Seattle. That’s two degrees of separation. The priest knows a bishop of Italian descent in New Jersey (three degrees). The bishop puts you in touch with his cousin, a cab driver in Rome (four degrees). The cabby drives someone who works in Rome (five degrees). That person happens to be the pope’s personal attendant (six degrees). So, there are six degrees of separation between you and Pope Francis. Wild, eh? It’s a small world, after all.

 

Making Friends on Vacation

My wife Christina and I experienced a bit of this on our recent vacation in Jamaica. We enjoyed the sand, sun, and crystal Caribbean. We feasted on ackee and salt fish, jerk chicken, beef patties, and other local delicacies. To make this trip even more enjoyable, we had great conversations with other beachgoers and diners. She’s much more extroverted than I am, but I even found myself striking up dialogues with fellow guests at the resort.

 

A Desire for Connection

There’s something about vacationing with total strangers. Deep in the human psyche, we all have a desire for connection. On our trip to another country, we encountered people from many different nations and diverse backgrounds. Yet, despite our differences, we shared a common urge to make friends. We were in the same place for a week together, sharing the same food, the same beach, and the same salt air. As we stepped out of our comfort zone to communicate with those around us, we discovered we shared more with these strangers than we could have imagined.

 

Joan and Jane*

We met Joan and Jane, a couple from the UK with oddly similar names, who regaled us with stories of their world travels. This was our first international trip (outside of the US, where I was born and still work, and Canada, where we live). So, Joan and Jane gave us many useful tips for traveling to other countries. As our conversation moved toward Christina’s Canadian accent, my US-Southern accent, and the accents of our new friends, we made an amazing discovery. Jess is from Herefordshire, the same little village where our brother-in-law Phil grew up. Small world, eh?

 

Betilda

Then we met Betilda. We were surprised to find that she is from Peachland, British Columbia. This is a three-hour drive from where we live. It also happens to be the town where Christina’s sister manages the Canadian Legion. Christina said, “If you’re from Peachland, you must know my sister, Deanna.” Turns out that Betilda not only knew her but was the vice president of the same Legion! Christina and Betilda took a selfie and sent it to Deanna, who thought it hilarious that her sister and friend should meet in another country.

 

Jonathan, Laurie, and Marley

Finally, we met Johan and Lucy, along with their son Marcelle. As we talked, Jonathan mentioned where he lives—the very same town where I work! We discovered something else in common—I’m a behavioral health specialist for one agency, while he works in the suboxone clinic at one of our partner organizations. I’ve been to his clinic countless times with clients, whom I’m sure we both know. (Of course, we didn’t discuss those clients—laws prevent it.) The point is, we could have, because we both know the same people. I’m sure the next time I’m at his clinic I’ll spot Johan and we’ll talk about Jamaica.

He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands

These three examples show that we are all more connected than we know. I’m convinced that six degrees of separation is way too many. Coincidences of geography, common acquaintances, and mutual professions aren’t the only things that unite us. Every human being—every living creature, for that matter—is held by the same divine love. There are, in fact, zero degrees of separation between you and each person on the planet.

The old song says, “He’s got the whole world in his hands.” While I don’t know about that song’s anthropomorphizing and gendering God, the concept is a good one. Acts 17:28 says, “In him we live and move and have our being.” The same God who holds you also embraces those who are like you—and those unlike you as well.

Now and then we experience one of those “small world” moments. I just happened to have three of them in one week. When those incidents arise, try going beyond saying, “Well, that’s weird,” or “What a coincidence.” Try giving thanks for the reminder that we’re all connected by something deep and sublime. Yes, it’s a small world, after all—and the whole world is in God’s hands.

 

*Names have been changed

 

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