My Connectedness Map. The numbers circled in red
link to the events listed below in chronological order
The world just got smaller for me. Not surprising since I'm one of the those people who is drawn to finding or making a connection with nearly everyone I meet. But a series of events occurred recently that affirmed my conviction that we are all connected.
I'm going to take you on a journey of connections and intersections that begins 33 years ago and slowly begins to weave into a tapestry of people, situations and meaning. After you've read this story and viewed the map, you tell me if you think it is just a coincidence or if there is something else going on here.
The journey begins back in Lincoln, NE, where my wife Georgette intersected with a woman named Elinor Kerrey, a professor at the University of Nebraska. And the journey continued last week when I intersected with Elinor's son, Bob Kerrey, at a fitness center in Omaha. Here is the sequence of connections and intersections that occurred between 1973 and 2015.
1. 1973- Georgette meets Elinor Kerrey when she becomes Elinor's graduate assistant at the University of Nebraska. Elinor has 5 children and becomes a mentor and major influence in Georgette's life. Among Elinor's children are Jessie, Bob and Nancy. Georgette helps out at Nancy's wedding and meets the family. She also obtains several recipes from Elinor, a Food and Nutrition professor, that remain in her recipe box to this day. Georgette considers Elinor Kerrey as one of the most influential women in her life.
2. 1985- Bob Kerrey and Dean Rasmussen open a fitness center in Lincoln. Dean is married to Bob's sister, Jessie. They open a 2nd center in Omaha in 1990 which is named Prairie Life Fitness and eventually build 8 more facilities in 3 states. Bob was a Navy Seal in Vietnam, received the Medal of Honor in 1970 and served as the Governor of Nebraska from 1983-87.
3. 1991- Charles McClendon and Justine Rudiger are inducted into the National Honor Society and graduate from Bryan High School in Omaha. They go on to attend the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and share an apartment during part of their time in college.
|Charles, first row, second from the right.|
Justin, back row, third from the right.
5. 1995- I finish my Master's degree and take a job in Lincoln where I meet and begin a relationship with Georgette. In the course of getting to know each her, she shares her story of Elinor Kerrey's influence on her life back in the 70's and I eat the first of many recipes that came from the kitchen of Elinor Kerrey.
6. 1999- I take a job at the Gallup Organization, based in Lincoln, where I meet Charles McClendon during my last interview. Charles and I become good friends and colleagues and work together for the next 12 years.
7. 2003- Georgette and I move to Omaha when Gallup relocates their headquarters to the riverfront. The home we purchase just happens to be located a couple of blocks north of Bryan High School. When we sit outside on on our deck, we look across a slight valley directly at Bryan High School.
8. 2005- I begin mentoring at Bryan High School, something I still continue to this day. I discover the National Honor Society photo on a wall in the commons area of the school and see Charles McClendon, my friend and co-worker, in the first row of the picture. I laugh.
9. 2007-I teach a leadership seminar at Gallup in Omaha that includes some of the leaders from Prairie Life Fitness, including Jennifer Rasmussen, daughter of Jessie Rasmussen and granddaughter of Elinor Kerrey. We connect and I share with her the story of her grandmother's influence in Georgette's life. She, like Georgette, has fond memories of Elinor.
10. 2014- I join Prairie Life Fitness Center in May and sign-up for personal training. My trainer, randomly assigned to me, is Justin Rudiger, who has been a trainer there for 16 years. We discover that we are both connected to Charles McClendon and have a connection to Bryan High School. The next time I am at Bryan for mentoring, I notice Justin in the back row of the National Honor Society photo, along with Charles. I take a picture of it with my I-phone and taunt Justin with it the next time I see him. While working out one morning, I also notice Justin training a couple who I think are Jessie and Dean Rasmussen (Dean being one of the owners of the company) so I ask him about it. Yep, he is the personal trainer for the owner and his wife. I asked him to introduce me to Jessie when the time is right.
11. 2015- One morning while at the gym, I see Justin working with Jessie and introduce myself to her. I share Georgette's appreciation of her mother, Elinor, and the contribution she made to her life. She seems appreciative of hearing that and thanks me for taking the time to share that with her.
12. Last week while at the gym, I'm warming up by running around the track. As I circle the gym, I see Jessie working out with Justin and give her a friendly wave. Later on, I see her talking to a man I don't recognize at first, but then on a another lap, I recognize the man as her brother, Bob Kerrey. When the time seems right, I approach Mr. Kerrey and introduce myself to him. I share the connection about his mother and Georgette, how much of an influence she was on her, and about the recipes. He tells me that he took organic chemistry from her and that she almost flunked him. I thank him for writing back to me in 1994- that I'm sure he got a lot of mail as a U.S. Senator, but he assured me that if the letter was handwritten, he wrote it himself. We have a 5 minute exchange about politics, the high suicide rate of our veterans and then I go back to running my laps. One more connection made.
I'm not surprised how genuine and down to earth Bob Kerrey was. He's lived an incredible life-Navy Seal, Congressional Medal of Honor and Purple Heart medals, governor and US Senator, served on the 9/11 Commission and as President of the New School in NYC. But standing there in the fitness center, we were just two guys sharing stories and making the world a smaller and more connected place.
So there you have it, a web of connections that spans the course of 33 years. To me, that is no coincidence. But I'm not sure if I'm ready to assign it to some sort of fate or destiny either. I do see it as a remarkable series of intersections especially when I consider that one of the common threads are the roles that the people played in each other's lives--difference makers, encouragers, friends, supporters, talented contributors to the world we all shared.
Whether this map is compete or will continue to evolve is not clear to me and remains to be seen.
What is very clear to me is that it is indeed a small and very wonderfully connected world.