The internet, through Facebook, Google+, Snapchat, email, and Google itself, has allowed me to get in touch and stay in touch with family and friends as well as making new friends I’ve never physically met but with whom I can still forge some pretty strong bonds. One such man died recently and I grieved as if we had been in close physical contact for years, but we had never even met. I can stay in touch with family (I’ve got twelve cousins in just one family and they’ve got children, grandchildren, and beyond), friends with whom I’d lost contact, former students, former teachers, and others. I am friends with a woman in Scandinavia yet we’ve only been in contact through an affordable watch forum on the internet (she does read the blog) and others all over the world who know about my work here and my health problems. That is just pretty darn amazing. I laugh at the old cell phones on dated movies, but the reality is that technology has really increased our capacity to “reach out and touch someone” to quote an old telephone ad. We were friends with some Anglican missionaries who retired and moved back to England many years ago, yet I stay in touch as he reads the blog, comments, and sends prayers and financial support from time to time. Karen had kids she taught as five-year-olds who are now college graduates and married with children—and who kept up with her on the internet. One such student got in touch from back in the sixties that Karen taught in kindergarten in Abilene, Texas. I remember her because both her parents were blind, and one Christmas, as I was the Santa at Sears, I drove out to her house and surprised her with a home visit (I had warned the parents in advance). I keep in touch with couples whose marriage I performed or whose babies I baptized (or both—marriages came first). There are folks I worked with in the Singles Ministry who are now quite happily married and still remember our quiet times together. I wished someone in the U.S. happy birthday the other day and she replied in Swahili and good Swahili at that. I get blown away by little things like that.
The point is that in spite of the fact that I am living in the bush in equatorial Africa, I am still in the living rooms and hearts of people whose lives intersected with mine in many forms. My spirits are truly lifted when I hear from those far away but close to me nevertheless. I cannot begin to thank you enough for keeping me from feeling really alone, isolated with the new title "widower." You have brought me into your own circles (except for those who have “unfriended” me for some miscommunication or bad joke I posted—sorry, really) and I am truly grateful to still be a part of your lives. It’s hard to be lonely when every day (internet and power permitting) I hear from family, friends, and those with whom I connect if only electronically. No matter how we reach out to each other, I want you to know that I feel your hugs and love. I couldn’t be doing what I am doing here without you. God bless you.