Sunday, June 27, 2010

It Is A Relief, But I'm Not Sure Why I Care

Here is the back story:

Via Facebook I reconnected with a grade school classmate. We didn't interact much in school, but being in the same class of less than 20 kids for 3rd through 5th grades lets you observe enough to feel like you know the person. I actually knew her older brother better: He and I often sat on the school bus together and would chat. He introduced me to The Lord Of The Rings among other things and I would tell him what I know about the military. My dad was an Air Force pilot and the brother seemed fascinated by all things military. He is serving in the US Army (reserves I believe) even now. Anyway, there were two other siblings, both sisters. One was older and was in my older brother's class, the other was much younger and I think was in a grade below my younger sister's.

The three younger siblings had an active repartee between each other on FB, but there had never been any mention, comment from or entry on friend lists for their eldest sister. I was tempted to ask, across these nearly 40 years, whatever became of "B". I never did, of course--what if something tragic or scandalous had "become" of her?

So, it was a big relief a few days back when she posted a reply to a post her brother made. She is alive, well and employed in a reputable profession. The question is, why did I care in the first place? [Note: I obviously care about any human being, what I mean here is the extra concern conveyed to people you have an emotional connection to.] I don't think we ever exchanged a word with each other. I was too young to be moved by music back in grade school, but certainly had enough of an ear to admire the skill with which she played the piano at recitals. That is a pretty tenuous connection to hang emotional content on.

On further reflection, I think I know why I care: I care about the girl from my class and her older brother because I know them. I care about their sister because they must care, in a really vital way, about her and so by extension I care. She has a big effect on them and I care about things that have a big effect on people I know. Further, it goes beyond this: That other people care deeply makes my empathy reach out to this lady and to wish her well.

ADDED: I have an aunt who is into new-age nonsense and I know how she would view all of this. She would think that my good will directed toward "B" will somehow reach her and make her feel happy. In reality, if she knew that the little brother of one of her class mates from grade school was thinking about her at all, it would probably give her the creeps.

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