Small World Phenomenon

For anyone keen on connection, the Small World Phenomenon ought to be a familiar topic.

Taking its title from a far-reaching social experiment conducted in 1967, it’s a concept that spawned The Six Degrees of Separation – a favourite subject here in our studio in Saunderstown –   examining chains of acquaintance, probing the different ways in which we all are linked.

It’s something we aim to examine in detail at a later date, but for now, it’s just the name that interests us. For, if the world in 1967 could be called small, these days it must be minuscule.

Just ask Valdo Moncada.

You might not be familiar with Valdo’s tale, but being as interested in connection as we are here in Rhode Island, it’s the kind of thing we’re always listening out for.

It’s a tale founded on connection or, to be more accurate, reconnection.

It’s a tale that speaks to us loud and clear.

You see, Valdo, a 91-year-old former solider, a veteran of World War II, has, in recent days, been reunited with a rather special friend.

That friend, William Kieschnick, had not seen Valdo for 67 years, not since the pair parted ways on a European battlefield, never, it seemed, to see each other again.

Then one morning in Napa Valley, William’s telephone began to ring.

“I thought I’d never find you,” Valdo, speaking from his home in North Carolina, told a friend he hasn’t seen since Europe was war-torn, a friend he hasn’t seen since1944, a friend bringing new meaning to the term ‘long-lost’.

Yet so small is our planet these days – thanks, in the main, to the internet – bringing the pair together had proved to a remarkably simple task.

“I said (to Valdo) ‘With good search engines and a little imagination, you can find anyone’,” explained Mark Bennett, a friend of Valdo’s, who spearheaded the older man’s quest.

“He gave me the name and I looked on the internet and, within five minutes, I had them both talking on the telephone.”

Five minutes! Not all that long ago such a feat would have proved all but impossible, requiring much research, ream upon ream of paperwork, a fair wind and remarkable fortune.

These days, mere minutes online can bring rewards unimaginable to Valdo and his peers, unimaginable to us just a handful of years ago.

If the world is a smaller place than ever, it’s the internet that has done the shrinking.

“I was so surprised,” said William, who admits recent events have left him in shock. “It was so unexpected. You turn loose of something after sixty-something years, but it comes back.”

Did you read our blog A tale of a different time last month?

It was a similar tale: long lost friends, reunited – reconnected – after years apart.

This latest case cannot boast a romantic angle quite the same. Five minutes spent searching on Google cannot, after all, compare to a misdirected postcard and some dogged detective work.

Yet in some ways, that makes it all the more remarkable, all the more special.

You see, connection is there at our fingertips – there for us all, in our homes and offices, all the time, requiring but the shortest time and the smallest effort.

The internet is a tool that is quite astonishing, yet in these modern times, we take it and its far-reaching powers for granted. For Valdo and his like, for us all, it is proving invaluable.

“He (Valdo) stays in contact with his High School friends, college grads and buddies from the war,” his wife, Mary Frances, explained. “There are fewer and fewer each year, but he’s always kept up with everyone he’s ever met.”

“My wife won’t let me play tennis,” joked Valdo, when asked about his motivation.

“I just happened to think about him (William) and wondered what had happened after I left him behind in the war.”

If there’s not a lot in life that can connect like a shared war experience, there’s nothing that can connect like a computer.

We should know: without one, our OMs wouldn’t have touched anything like the lives that they have in recent times.

So let’s celebrate the internet. Let’s celebrate friendship. Let’s celebrate connection.

But above all, let’s celebrate Valdo Moncada and William Kieschnick.

This is a tale that touched and inspired us here in Saunderstown.

We are all connected.

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