Have you ever met a perfect stranger and after a bit of conversation find out that you have a mutual acquaintance? Or, maybe in the conversation you find out that someone you know knows someone they know.
Social psychologist Stanley Milgram did a study on such coincidental meetings. He selected a group of people at random. He gave each of them a document to be sent to another person chosen at random from across the country. The instructions were that they were to mail the document to someone they knew that had the greatest chance of knowing the target individual. That person was to follow the same instructions until the document reached the randomly selected target individual. How many such mailings do you think it would take to reach the target? It only took from 2 to 10, with 5 being the most common number.
John Allen Paulos in his book, Innumeracy, suggests that there is a 1 in 100 chance when we meet a stranger that we will have a common acquaintance. But there is a 99 in 100 chance that we will be linked to one another by a chain of only two intermediates.
It’s a small world. We are linked to one another more closely that we may realize. We need to remember the teaching of Jesus:
For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:46–48, ESV)
May we show kindness to all we meet. May we demonstrate the love of the Father in all aspects of our life.
Who knows what may come of a chance encounter? We may find connections that we never dreamed of. But more importantly, we may be that person’s connection to hearing about Jesus.
Let us not be afraid to share our faith. After all, it’s a small world.