I've been thinking lately about the impact a person can make on others. I've written before how my grandparents' quiet, every-day actions helped the people around them. A word, a card, a pie, a hand - little things that touched their neighbors and their world.
But in the digital era, it can go even farther. Something I say online can help (or hurt) a person I've never met. I've been touched by others' blog posts or comments and have forged friendships with other bloggers, even if we don't know each other in person. You exchange comments, emails and laughs. You get to know a person through their posts and pictures.
This struck me with force this past week when I heard about the death of an online acquaintance. I knew Robert Rainey through the Slow Travel forums. We bantered on the same topics often, and shared views or dissented travel options over the past several years. We had friends in common, so while I hadn't met Robert, I knew him. We'd interacted. I knew his tastes and opinions on several subjects, as well as his sense of humor.
So it came as a shock to hear that Robert had been brutally murdered in his office in Los Angeles. He was a chiropractor, a nice guy, full of energy and enthusiasm. And yet he was senselessly beaten to death. Perhaps for money; maybe a drug-crazed creep. Who knows. I hope they find out; I hope they find the person who did this to a 54-year old caring individual.
I read the news on Facebook in the morning, and it stayed with me all day. I had that gut-wrenching feeling in my stomach; I shook my head at the thought, the unbelievable thought that this happened to a person I knew. Even if I didn't know him. I felt sorrow for his family and for those at Slow Travel who will miss his presence and his input. I felt despair; I felt sad.
And it struck me again how we touch people's lives without even realizing it. So I want to tell you, my friends, how much I appreciate you. Your words, your comments, your jokes, your emails, your phone calls. Even if we haven't met in person, you've been here with me through the adventures and trials. And I thank you.