I started it on a whim. Over the past year and a half, it's become a place where I can vent and ruminate. And, increasingly, where I can communicate with blog friends. But yesterday, it also revealed itself as a place where I was able to ask for--and almost immediately receive--information that could potentially save the life of a battered immigrant woman in West Virginia, a legal situation I know little to nothing about and a state in which I've never lived. Two people responded, one of whom I "know" (but have never met) and the other anonymous. I immediately forwarded all of the information that they provided to the friend who brought the situation to my attention, in hope that her contact will use it to help this woman. Such an amazing example of the power of the internet being harnessed for good, and I am beyond grateful to both of the people who took the time to post in response to my plea.
Because I am a massive nerd, thinking about this reminded me of social network theory, specifically a concept known as "betweenness centrality." In a social network, high "betweenness" individuals are often found at the intersections of more densely connected network communities, as depicted below (the red dots.)
These people are natural brokers of information and collaboration, not necessarily (and often not) central to any social clique but residing on the periphery of multiple cliques.
I've just realized that I am a red dot. Not overwhelmingly cool, for sure, not "in," but generally liked and respected and with a wide circle of unrelated and sometimes unlikely acquaintances that has been a godsend in this particular case.
When my friend (who is not connected to most of my social networks at all) mentioned the woman's situation and asked if I knew anything about the law involved, my first thought was "Sadly, no." Quickly followed by: "Oh, but I've worked on PTA stuff at my kids' school with a woman who is very involved in fundraisers for a women's shelter here in my county. Maybe she could help." As it turned out, she didn't know the answer either, but a contact of hers at the shelter connected me to somebody who eventually gave me similar information to what NOLA and Anonymous posted here. Connect, connect, connect.
Before I heard anything back from that source, however, it occurred to me to post on this blog, knowing that NOLA could probably refer me to somebody if she didn't have the info herself. Anonymous was the icing on the cake that came out of that decision (and connected to my blog through who-knows-what other series of blogroll links!): wonderful information and his/her (her, probably?) mitzvah-of-the-year chalked up. Connect, connect, connect again.
Proud and thankful to be a red dot, even if this train of thought does forever cement my nerd status. Maybe I'll use this for my Facebook profile pic going forward!