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A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

Small World

May 4th, 2005

I’m at a Jamba Juice in Mesa, Arizona waiting for my Berry Lime Sublime smoothie when I notice a lady staring at my America West Arena name badge. “Is Swea City, Iowa your home town?” I tell her it sure is. And how impressed I am that she pronounced it correctly.

Swea City’s a small place. About 700 people, provided everyone’s home. “I’ve been there. In fact, my aunt used to live there.” I ask her aunt’s name. “Gladys Hanson.” I tell the lady that Gladys was a member of my church for as long as I can remember and one of my Grandparents’ closest friends.

I’m at an outdoor art festival in Scottsdale, Arizona. I strike up a conversation with a young couple who say they are from Seattle. It rains a lot there but it doesn’t snow like it does in the place they grew up. “Where is that?”, I ask.

“Iowa. The Sioux City area. Actually, a small town called LeMars.” LeMars.

“Did you go to LeMars Central High School?” They did.

“Do you know Glendon Peterson?” They said he was their favorite teacher.

“Glendon is my uncle.”

I’m at my day job in Phoenix, Arizona, on the phone with a lady in Bismark, North Dakota. Reviewing paperwork she has faxed me, I notice that she’s written for a couple magazines that I’m familiar with. “I go to a writer’s conference every year in Glorieta, New Mexico”, she says. I ask if she attended this past fall. She was there. “Then you’ve seen me. Remember the band who did the music for the conference? I was the guy playing percussion.”

Of everything I learned in my undergraduate major of psychology, one study has always intrigued me. A group of researchers got together to test the “small world” theory. They gathered phone books from all over the country. Opening one at random they would blindly point to a name. “John Jones in Tampa, Florida.” Then they would open another phone book and randomly select another person. “Marie Morrison in Holbrook, Arizona”. They would send a letter to Marie Morrison with John Jones’ name and address and these instructions: “Don’t send this letter directly to John Jones. Just send it to any person you know and have them send it to any person they know until someone says, “Hey, I know John Jones!” They repeated this experiment hundreds of times.

Guess how many times, on average, the letter had to be mailed before someone knew “John Jones”?

Five times.

Only five times before someone said, “Hey, I know that person!” It really is a small world.

When we go beyond the immediate fascination that only five or six degrees separate us from every person on the planet, we see the incredible impact we can have on our world. Even if we live our entire life in one place. As far as I know, Gladys Hanson never left our small town. Yet years later and 1,500 miles removed I was able to tell her niece of her godly example and treasured friendship to my Grandparents. My Uncle Glendon spent his entire teaching career at one school. His passion for excellence in the classroom is an unforgettable example to his students who now live all over the country. I doubt he would ever have thought he’d be the topic of discussion between two strangers at an art festival in Scottsdale.

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He talks about the positive influence we can have on those around us. He likens us to a lamp that is put on a stand so it gives light to everyone in the house. Jesus goes on to say, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) A lamp doesn’t run about trying to illuminate the entire world. It stays in one place and lights up the room it’s in.

What you do makes a difference. Your influence extends far beyond your awareness. You may live and die within 100 miles of your birthplace, yet you’re still only five people removed from everyone else on the planet. In that light, there’s really no need to be famous. We need only be faithful.

When we’re faithful to be kind, when we’re faithful to do our best with the talents and abilities God has given us, when we’re faithful to be who we are where we live; the ripples of our life well-lived will roll across the ocean of humanity. Guaranteed.

Because it only takes five postage stamps before someone says, “Hey, I know you!”

It really is a small world. In your corner of it, be faithful to make a difference. You just might be the topic of conversation for two strangers waiting for their Jamba Juice.