I really suck at the whole "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game. Could be just because I'm not a big movie buff, or could be because I'd rather concentrate my brain cells on the people I know personally, not those who starred in films with Kevin Bacon.
And yours truly knows a ton, A TON, of people. See, I have this philosophy:
Everyone in the world is a friend until they give me reason to think differently.
Unknown rice farmer in the hills of China? Yep, my friend. Random Ukranian woman I've never met? Friend. Medicine man in Bali? Buddy.
Yet, if you're like me, someone tells you of a tragedy with one of THEIR friends and it doesn't hit home like if I'd know this same person intimately. Sure, everyone says the appropriate things, "I'm sorry" or gives some helpful news, "I'll be praying for you..." but it's not nearly like when you know the person. So, if random Chinese rice farmer suddenly dies and I hear of it, my pain doesn't go terribly deep-even though I consider him a friend, it's not like we're intimate, dig?
But what about when you do know the people? What happens when you ARE intimate? It's a very, very different dynamic.
Right now, I have two people who are getting a lot of my mental, healing and praying energy, Debe and Hilary.
Let's start with Debe. Remember in my book, Barb, my favorite nurse? Wonderful woman who treated me like the 18 year old guy I was, not some anonymous patient. I will always, ALWAYS have a special place in my heart for how Barb took care of me when I couldn't take care of myself. Why did she do such a great job? First off, it's just who she is. But second, Barb had two sons, both around my age.
Notice I used the word "had." In 2007, at age 24, Barb's youngest son succumbed to a rare form of cancer. Devastating for anyone to lose a family member, but a son at such a young age is a bigger kick in the head.
As time has moved on and Barb has begun healing, we learn of another, Barb's sister, Debe. I've met Debe twice; first time at my book release event back in the fall of 06, second time was the day after her nephew, Mark, passed away. Just last week, we learned that Debe was diagnosed with leukemia. I know Debe by default through Barb, but as she (Debe) loves someone I love, it brings everything a step closer.
Now, let's bring it closer than that. Again, a character from my book, Hilary. Hil and I lived in the dorm together, took English classes together at Missouri State and, somewhere over the three years living in New Hall, became the best of friends. Hilary believed in me when I darned sure didn't believe in myself. Her friendship was a constant-something that isn't easy to maintain when you were friends with a guy as emotionally off kilter as I was that first couple of years of blindness. Hilary and I have stayed friends through those college years, post college and while she was in medical school and still, now 15 years later, we still talk a few times per month. Back in October while on my west coast tour, I was pumped to be able to spend the weekend with her at her home in Boise.
Two weeks ago, Hilary called with the news: she'd just been diagnosed with breast cancer. She's 33. You'd think with as many people as I know, I'd be a lot more likely to have lost a lot of friends-not so. Thankfully, other than older relatives, I've lost very few friends. When my BFF tells me she's got a cancer diagnosis, it causes me to take a good, long look at life and how fragile it really is. Nothing makes someone view their own mortality like a friend being diagnosed with something awful.
Well, good news on the Hilary front. The lumpectomy was performed yesterday, the cancer had not gotten into any lymph nodes and she should be released from the hospital in, oh, about five hours. As far as cancer goes, this is about the best case scenario.
So, back to the idea of anonymous names...chances are, you don't know Debe. Or Barb. Or Hilary. I do. They're my friends, not just a random name.
Although you may not know them, I'm asking for you to do them a favor. Hell, do ME a favor: If you're the praying kind, pray for them. If you're the meditating kind, throw some healing energies their way. If you're the athiest kind, hope for modern medicine to do it's thang and keep these people safe. They may be anonymous names to you, but to me, they're friends...