I have a Facebook friend I don't really know. Do you?
She connected with me when I was perforated back in 2011. Among all the high school friends and acquaintances (there were 600+ of us in the class) she is one of the few who maintained the relationship. I've watched her grandchildren grow, even as I wondered how I knew her. The yearbook picture didn't help. Who was she?
Finally, I asked her. It took a lot of courage to decide to say "I don't remember you from high school. Why weren't we friends? I think we would have liked one another."
The pause she took before answering my question left me hollow in my heart. Had I insulted her? Was my carefully crafted questioning, developed over several days, shared and vetted with my closest friends, more annoying than we had supposed? I didn't want to lose her, but I had to know.
Just before it got really awkward, she sent a little laugh over the phone and into my ear.
"I was from Island Park (a neighboring town which sent its K-8 graduates to our high school) and I was kind of a hippie and I kept to myself. But I remember you - you were always nice to me."
I was always nice to her.
I didn't know that I was powerful enough to make that much of an impression. It never crossed my mind that anyone would care whether I was nice - to her or to anyone - or not. I thought I was living on the edges of several groups. I wasn't integral to any of them, or so it seemed to me at the time. I was surprised to find that my opinion of someone else made a difference.
I had good friends. I wasn't ostracized. I just never felt like I fit in to a specific group. The girls from Bayfield Boulevard were friends. The cheerleaders and pep squad girls were friends. The cool kids and the greasers knew who they were and who was not. I was there, but looking in from the outside. In the overall scheme of things, it never seemed to matter if I like someone or not.
Yet here was a classmate, 40 some years later, remembering kindnesses I never knew I shared. "You were always nice to me" leaves me wondering who was mean to her, and why. What could I have done or said that made a lasting impression? How did she remember me, out of all those other kids, when I had no memory of her existence? And that always..... that's the part that makes me smile the most.
It's nice to receive a commendation, even after decades have passed. It's nice to know that, at least for one person, I was a smile in the middle of the day. It's surprising to consider that I was important enough to have made a difference.
There's a lesson here, isn't there?