Really I suppose this is an ode to people, people who use the internet to foster real connections with other people. So let’s make that distinction right off:)
Now, onto the ode.
Once upon a time, I got a totally random email from a woman who was living in Portland for a few months. We’ll call her, oh, Helen. She’d stumbled upon this blog looking for some sort of biking resource — routes from Portland to Astoria, I think — and ended up poking around for a while. And unlike most people who read and split, she took the time to follow my “contact me” link and actually compose an email.
This is something I thought only I did, the whole writing-to-strangers-to-let-them-know-you-found-something-they-did-helpful thing. I try to make it a point to tell people when they’ve helped me because I think there’s not enough genuine appreciation in the world, and I like to let people know when something is useful or awesome to me (though I could still be waaaaay better at this than I am). But I sort of thought I was the only person in the world who still did that kind of thing, so I was rather astonished to find that someone else does it too, and that I was the recipient.
Because of her email, we struck up a correspondence that perhaps predictably led to plans to ride our bikes together, and I met her one day for a trip down to Bob’s Red Mill for breakfast, then a hike at Tryon Creek State Park, and a very soggy visit to the Wednesday farmer’s market in the park blocks. As we rode, hiked, and chatted, we learned that we grew up literally blocks from each other in Sacramento (though a little removed in time), that we both speak French, and we commiserated about our various breeds of wanderlust and the balance of settledness and adventure in life. It was fricken fantastic, this for-realz conversation with a woman who mere weeks before had been totally unknown to me.
And then she went back to California, but we’ve stayed reasonably in touch, and a short trip back to Portland for her this week led to another lovely joint adventure today.
This is where the ode to internet comes in. Without this blog and the ability to email, I would not have met Helen. But if Helen had not been the kind of person to actually reach out for real instead of simply reading my pixellated words from the infinitely removed spaces of her life, I would not have met Helen either. It’s so easy to consume, always consume from the privacy of your own device: read others’ words, check others’ updates, spy on others’ pictures — it’s so easy to feel like you know someone without ever actually saying a single word to them. But that’s so one-sided, and, often, so unfulfilling.
So I guess today I’m feeling thankful for the Helens of the world, the people who remember that there are also people behind the words they read, the people who still see the internet for its potential for communication and who remember that communication is a two-way street.
Thanks, Helen:) And anyone else who tries to make the world a little bit more human, even amidst the deluge of ever-so-distant digital. Y’all rock.