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Connections or Six Degrees of Separation

by the Rev. Robert Olsen

I’ve occasionally mentioned in my sermons that we are all connected and I’ve recently had a couple of experiences that have confirmed for me just how interconnected we are, one to another and across time. The second part of the title of this month’s article refers to the theory that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away from any other person in the world. A chain of “a friend of a friend” makes up the six steps. Now you may have heard of “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” talking about how all actors are somehow linked with Kevin Bacon within six steps. But the theory actually came from a Hungarian author in 1929 who wrote a short story about how small the world had gotten after WWI and that within six steps everyone was connected to everyone else or an event.

First story – when Sandy and I mentioned at church we were going to Hawaii and as part of that trip visit the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, John Karsten told the story of his returning from Korea as a young Marine and their ship stopping in Hawaii. As they came into Pearl Harbor, he and his buddies were on deck and looking down the rail saw their Gunnery Sergeant with tears streaming down his face. Now John described Gunny Stovall as the meanest man he ever met, so they were completely surprised. Anyway John and his buddies asked the sergeant why he was crying and he replied that his dad had been a Marine on the Arizona when it was hit and sunk on December 7, 1941. Visiting the Arizona memorial is an emotional experience, but it was even more so seeing Marine PFC Stovall’s name etched into the wall. Us-John-Gunny Stovall-PFC Stovall, depending on how you count the connections that is only two steps between us and PFC Stovall.

Story two – If you are my age or older then you can probably remember where you were and what you were doing when John F Kennedy was killed. I was a junior in high school on a CSF (Cal Scholarship Federation) field trip to UC Davis. As a new driver I’d somehow talked my dad into letting me take the car as the back-up driver, but ended up taking myself, another fellow from my class and 4 senior girls to Davis. I remember getting lost in downtown Sacramento and heading the wrong way down a one Way Street – but yes everyone still rode home with me. Ask me what I had for lunch yesterday and I probably couldn’t tell you, but I’m guessing like me, most folks can remember a lot of details from that day in November over 50 years ago. If nothing else millions of us are connected by that event in US history and in our lives.

itsasmallworldofcute_600_w580_h580It is a small world if we take the time to talk with folks. As we go about our daily lives we may not even realize how many people we are connected to through friends of friends or mutual events. The fact that we are connected means there aren’t as many strangers as we would think; we just haven’t made the connections. I think this idea of our connectedness makes it easier to understand that everyone is our neighbor – the neighbor we are to love as Christ loves us.


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