I am not one to stay connected at all times. I have a cell phone but I seldom use it. I don't have text. I've often watched people walking around looking at a gadget in their hands or talking to someone we can't see via a gadget in their ear, and I think, never have we had so many ways to stay in touch and yet remain so disconnected to our immediate surroundings.
But I do love the internet. I love Facebook and the way it has created connections for me, both with people I used to know and with people I have never met. In the '90s, I loved listservs and developed a number of friendships via them. To this day (and often on Facebook!), I remain in touch with people I "met" via listservs devoted to Joni Mitchell fans, to Mark Heard fans, and to the joys and struggles of being gay and Christian.
One such person is Darren. We "met" first, I believe, on a gay Christian listserv. Then I noticed his name pop up on a listserv devoted to singer/songwriter Sam Phillips. I emailed him off-list to point out the connection. We developed a correspondence off-list. When I moved to Chicago in 2001, he and his partner, Atsushi, visited me for a few days.
Eventually, our correspondence lessened and we drifted. It happens. I never had anything but kind and warm thoughts of Darren and Atsushi and was happy to reconnect via Facebook some months ago.
Darren and Atsushi live in Tokyo. Despite being badly shaken and everything in his apartment "strewn all over the place," Darren has been able to post to Facebook that he is okay, that they've been in touch with Atsushi's mother (who had been out and stranded for hours before making her way home), and are doing well for living so near an enormous earthquake.
Thanks to the internet, the Japan earthquake is more personal than other such disasters. I have a face and a name to place in the middle of the rubble.
I almost always respond to these sorts of natural disasters through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Disaster Response, which has a great reputation for getting relief to where it's needed.
This time, more than Haiti, even more than New Orleans, I feel something more personal at stake. Darren is in Tokyo. Someone in the disaster has a name I can call, and it belongs to someone I've met, hugged hello and goodbye.
Of course, Christian love demands that I care for the people I don't know in Haiti as much as I do for Darren. We know this and we respond as we can to this demand. I don't mean to say that this tsunami and earthquake are in any way worse than Hurricane Katrina.
I'm merely reflecting on how some email listserv postings from over a decade ago are affecting me today. The ripples in this web of connection.
I don't have anything much more profound to say about it. Except that I will pray for Japan and I will pray for Darren and Atsushi, for those I do not know and for those I have called friend.
I suppose that's how it always is.