It really is such a small world: No. 37

Published 7:56 pm Tuesday, March 24, 2015

We have all had it happen to us at one time or another. On a planet of 7.5 billion people, you happen to run into someone in someplace so unlikely that it sends chills up your spine. There is never a logical explanation other than perhaps it was just fate. I think of it as a comforting reminder that despite all the growth is still a small world.

A friend was recently telling me of an acquaintance of his from Dothan whom he recently traveled with to Hong Kong. Not once, but twice, this person introduced himself to a complete stranger that amazingly happened to also be from Dothan, Alabama. When my friend then mentioned his traveling companion’s name, it was Stan Jones, my fraternity little brother from Auburn.

My daughter, Catherine, was traveling with us in France while she was still in school. As we were passing through one of the great halls in the Palace of Versailles, we literally ran into a classmate of hers from college. Neither knew the other was even going to be in Europe.

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My newest small world event occurred this past week as I was driving from Santa Barbara, California back to the Los Angeles airport. Since I was taking the redeye flight, I had a few hours to kill and I cut over to the coastline at Malibu. I had a few calls to make and stopped at a beautiful spot on a bluff overlooking the ocean.

My phone rang and it was one of my best friends from high school, Jim Dahl.  “Where are you?” he asked. Isn’t it fun when you can answer a random question like that with something like, “Oh I am just sitting on a bluff in Malibu watching the ocean!”

After talking with him over an hour, calling home, and checking my messages at the office, my phone was completely dead. No more calls for me today.  That was a shame because I have a couple of friends actually living in the Malibu area that I would have called to say hello.

As I am walking back to my car, I notice a couple of little league teams preparing to play a game. Having nothing better to do, I sat down in one of the few little league ballparks in the world where you watch the game and the ocean at the same time. A few minutes later, I was astonished to see that one of the coaches was my friend, Nick Shurgot, who owns some Hardee’s restaurants in Arkansas and Memphis. His young son happened to be playing on one of the teams.

I didn’t disturb Nick until after the game, but you can imagine the shock on his face when I just walked up to him on a ball field more than 2,000 miles from home.

From the ball field, you can also see Pepperdine University, where my other Malibu connection, Janet Kerr, was a professor. Janet and I served on a Board together 10 years ago and became good friends. Having planned to call her as well, the day was now late and my phone was dead. Besides, I had not spoken to Janet in probably five years.

Worn out the following day, as only an overnight flight can do, I was taking a nap at home when the phone rang. I sat straight up when I looked on my caller ID and the name said “Janet Kerr.” Unbelievably, after all these years she had called me less than 12 hours after I was thinking about her while in Malibu.

It turns out that she is now retired from Pepperdine and I would not have been able to call her there even if my phone had been working.

Now I ask you, is it chance or fate when you randomly reconnect with the only two people you know in a community on the other side of this huge country within the space of 24 hours? These types of weird encounters have occurred to me before and I hope they will happen again. I happen to believe they are just one of those delightfully unexplainable things that make life fun and remind us that sometimes it is indeed a very small world.