A colleague was in my office this morning, upset over an email she'd received from a student who had misunderstood something said in class. The students' response was totally out of proportion to the level of misunderstanding (and probably reflected more about other things in her life than the misunderstanding in class). In the email, the student called my colleague--a gentle person--a monster and other bad names. As I commiserated with my colleague, I kept thinking that this kind of behavior is so common today, especially when people can write things on a computer, hit "send," and not think anymore about it. Just before my colleague entered my office, I had read of an incident where a woman loaned another woman $20, supposedly for necessities, found out the money was spent another way, and posted a rude comment on Facebook. The argument--public because it continued and escalated on Facebook--ended with one of the women dead, murdered by the other one! So I had the thought in my mind that we live in a world where people connect, but don't really connect, through the digital world. Where unkindness is easier with distance. Shadows.
After my colleague left my office, I turned to my computer screen and opened the next thing in my RSS feed: this SOLS from Ruth: http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/dessert-club-ruths-sols/ Ruth's candid expressions of how hard it is to make relationships that end (in different ways) and then choose to develop more such relationships moved me. My perspective shifted; clouds parted. The world isn't so bleak as it had seemed just moments earlier. Yes, Ruth's relationships with those teenagers were face-to-face. But her influence on me was through the digital world. She gave me a little piece of sunshine to carry around inside today. A much better way to travel the world.