Take a moment and think about all of the people in your life. I mean all of them. Sure, there’s your family. Then your brain is probably moving to your close friends. Now you’re thinking about your friends with whom you aren’t as close. Let’s dig deeper. The person you see on a regular basis at the grocery store. The person who delivers your mail or your newspaper. That person you see on Facebook or on Twitter. What would you do if you found out any of those people were suddenly gone? Those dreaded words – passed away suddenly.
My life has been peppered with this phenomenon from a very young age. When I was six, a severe asthma attack took my grandmother’s life. In fact, by the time I was in fifth grade I only had one grandparent left. In my professional life, three contacts have passed away suddenly over the last year or so. However, there’s one story in particular that I want to share with you, because it gets to the heart of why I try my best to see the good in everyone, even if they are just a passing face in my Twitter stream or my Facebook feed.
“That woman who does the drawings”
I was on a message board a few years ago for a show I really liked. Every day, this woman, who was a loyal but self-deprecating fan, would draw comics and little scripts making fun of the show we all loved. The comics were brilliant because they were believable exaggerations of everything that was happening. They were charming. They were smart.
I don’t think I ever commented on any of her posts, but I looked forward to seeing them every day. I kind of wove this person I didn’t know and her daily artwork into my routine.
One day, I signed in and there were a ton of threads about how this woman had passed away in a car accident. “Oh sure,” I thought. I’ve experienced a ton of fake deaths in various online communities. However, this one was real. Someone posted a link to the news story. Family members signed in to confirm it. Sure enough, the drawings no longer showed up.
The effect was strange. I didn’t really even know this woman’s real name. I didn’t know anything about her life, and she probably didn’t even know the handle I used online because I don’t think I ever talked to her. And yet there I was, feeling rather shocked and sad, because this person had become a part of my regular life without even trying.
I hadn’t really realized that until she was no longer lighting up the forums.
Don’t create regret scenarios
Being nice online may be really boring, and sometimes there are moments when I think I could really yell at someone or raise a ruckus. But you know what? The people in my online community, the people in my life – they are all part of the fabric that makes my daily reality what it is. It’s not worth it to me to wonder if I let that person know I appreciated them. It’s not worth it to me to feel regret because things were left on a sour note. I don’t take anyone for granted. Even if I don’t talk to you on a regular basis…even if I just see you flying by in the online world…I don’t take you for granted. There’s no time for it.
If you haven’t told that person you appreciate them, or if you’ve burned bridges, now is the time.
This is post #43 in The Engagement Series, and really, this post is the heart of the matter. I hope you find it helpful.
Image by Pedro Simao. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/pdsimao