Wednesday September 6 – I am sitting in the Smitty’s at Grasswoods Esso in Saskatoon, I only have a few minutes more to write because in 10 minutes friends are arriving to meet me, Russ will be pulling in shortly after.
That single sentence holds two really big stories for us.
The first is that the friends we are meeting we have never actually spent time with in person before. We will recognize each other through pictures seen on Facebook.
The second is that Russ and I spent the night at my sisters only a few minutes from here. At 5am the alarm went off, Russ got himself going and made it to a farm near Vanscoy by 6:30am. He went to make a purchase of a colt before the owner needed to get to work.
My sister dropped me off here at Smittys on her way to work.
Am I nervous about this visit? No, not really, my work as a minister doing pastoral work has prepared me well for sitting at tables with people I don’t know.
The main connection has been between Russell and Margaret. I have occasionally ……
Here they come. I can see them coming across the parking lot.
The visit is done, Russ and I are zipping down the Yellowhead highway on our way to Shoal Lake, Manitoba. We have a donkey to buy. But back to the first stories.
At Easter in 2020 my Mom sent a group text expressing her easter wishes to her kids and grandkids. After that arrived a follow-up message appeared, from a strange number. The gist of that was ”I don’t think I was supposed to get this text.” Something fairly unexplainable had happened. My Mom had inserted an extra phone number in her group text, but it wasn’t a number from her directory. The person who received the message had never heard of our family. How did my Mom do that? It seems like it was more than pushing one or two accidental buttons.
Almost five days later……my vehicle is in getting an oil change and I am at the Flying M Diner in Carnduff eating toast and eggs and drinking coffee. I absolutely love moments like this. Back to the story……A few members of the family answered this random text, posing questions and trying to figure out how this had happened. No obvious connection was ever established. Russ was one of the family who texted back and forth with this stranger. He still has the same phone he did then, so as we traveled down the road last Wednesday, talking over how it is that we had become friends with these strangers, we could scroll back in his phone and find the original interactions. It was comical. It was like Russ couldn’t decide what he wanted. He told her “have a good life” twice, sounds like a “I’m done” message to me, but then he would send our stranger a picture of new calves that had been born. They connected over the shared interest in agriculture and by the time a couple days had passed they were facebook friends. Russ entered the number in his phone and going on the information he had early on titled her contact information “Random Margaret.”
2020 would unfold as it did. Margaret and Russell discovered more than ranching and church in common, they found they both love jokes and soon the quips were flying back and forth. Margaret kept Russell supplied with multiple sources of laughter a day.
Soon I became her facebook friend too and became somewhat familiar with the rhythms of her days and the special people in her life. Margaret read my blog and would send messages at times to speak of what it stirred in her. We were all definitely developing a solid relationship.
When my Mom was diagnosed with cancer in summer of 2020 things got emotionally tricky for Russell and I. Margaret reached out to Russell in a way that said, “I see you.” When I went to Saskatoon to help care for my Mom she knew how much Russell struggled and how much stress it was for me. She offered to take me out for coffee, for a break. I didn’t take her up on that but I knew she was there. I had several support persons in Saskatoon, but all of us were so emotionally tied into the difficulty of what was being faced. Having Margaret offer her care, totally objective to the situation, had the effect of feeling like there was a first aid kid available that was just for me should I need it.
The friendship has carried on for over two years now, through facebook and messenger. Russ stopped calling our friend “Random Margaret” sometime in that first year. When his phone dings with a Messenger message he now might say, “I betcha that’s ‘Not Random Margaret’”. Often he is right. It is mysterious that as the presence of my Mom in our lives waned another tall and energetic senior lady was in the wings, she helps to keep Russ encouraged and feeling seen.
Late last Tuesday as we made our way to Saskatoon we were discussing how our impromptu colt pickup trip was going to unfold. Realizing that we had a bit of time in the morning once our first pickup was done I said to Russ, “do we have time to meet Margaret for breakfast?” With it being a work day it was a perfect morning to meet our retired friend. We made the invitation and it all got set up. It was pretty fun to finally put voices and mannerisms to what we already knew. Margaret’s husband was part of our time. I appreciated meeting him more than I realized I would. I have few elder men in my life, it has always been that way. The elders I have I treasure, but I just don’t get to see them often at all. So there was already a spot in my heart for the man I was starting to get to know.
After breakfast we parted ways and it was later that Margaret send a message, “we forgot to get a picture!” It feels good to live in the moment and forget about pictures sometimes, but afterwards, a souvenir is nice. I guess we just lived in the moment.
The impact of the internet is so far reaching and I tend to think that the drawbacks outnumber the benefits. However, there are definite mysterious ways that it weaves magic, allowing people to connect, share themselves, and feel encouraged. Our story with not random Margaret and Larry is one of those things we place in the column titled “benefits of the internet.” As I wrap this story up, for now, I doubt myself. Is this that unusual or noteworthy? I mean people use the internet to meet new people pretty often, it is something most of us have the power to do, is it worthy of a blog post? I write about it because it’s a way of upholding how valuable the net of human relationship is in our lives. One thing Russell has taught me is that we never need to be done weaving new threads into the net. The random strangers that make their way into our days can be sources of blessing and remind us that we are not alone. The random becomes part of a sturdy net that helps to catch us and at the same time these threads create a beautiful tapestry that keeps life super interesting. We are blessed.