I am a lurker on an online forum about the Gonzaga basketball team. Have been for years, but never posted. Not a lot of breaking Zags news initially passes through Little Norway.
I check the message board every day to read what the Zags fans in Spokane, and fans surfing the internet, are picking up about past, present and future Zags. These nicknamed strangers — BobZag, MDAbe and others — are, in an odd way, valued acquaintances of mine. I agree it is strange, but, I suspect, not off-the-charts-bizarre in the age of social media.
Today a fellow Zags fan, Woohoo, posted that his mother had died. The outpouring of sympathy and empathy was remarkable. As is his story.
My recollection is that Woohoo lives somewhere near St. Louis and never attended Gonzaga or had any personal stake in the school. He simply appreciates the David vs. Goliath battles they voluntarily fight annually — and the class the student-athletes always seem to show — and is a devoted fan.
Through his enthusiasm, dedication and openness over the years, he has become a valued member of the message board. So much so that a few years ago some members got him a plane ticket to Spokane and a ticket to a Zags home game. His posts during that adventure reminded everyone who read them about the profound power of kindness and friendship. And the warmth of being part of a community.
As I was reading the responses to Woohoo’s loss, I was reminded of how I spend an hour or so on Wednesday after work, sharing a libation and chatter with a group of now-friends. About a year ago, I was invited to join the group by a friend. At the time, I knew only two group members. I have attended most Wednesdays since.
Over the weeks, we have shared the history and characters of Poulsbo, children and grandchildren’s successes and defeats, heart transplants, heart procedures, hip replacements, knee stem cell injections, trips to Iceland, Scotland, France, the Philippines, California, Maine, retirements, dates set for retirement, weeks dedicated to helping injured spouses, business ups and business downs, and enthusiastic discussions of current political issues. As a group that ranges from six to 20 on a Wednesday evening, we are a broad spectrum of American political opinion. Through it all, though, we are friends.
As I thought about signing up to the Zags message board (which I did) simply to share my condolences with Woohoo — a man I will likely never see, meet or correspond with again — I was reminded of the power and joy of being part of a group. A professional community. A church. A service club. Parents watching kids play together. Room parents and volunteers at school. Coin collectors. Knitters. Zumba participants. The nexus of the group is almost unimportant. Most people want to feel part of some community. To share each other’s joy, daily adventures, funny vignettes, family ups and downs, and, as with Woohoo, losses.
This world is a big place, this life a long journey. Particularly alone. Life’s burdens are certainly lightened having friends who care about what is going on in your life. Even people oddly acquainted with a stranger enough to sign onto a message board just to say, “I am sorry for your loss.”
In a world that appears sometimes to be cold and uncaring, it is great to feel connected to others — and know they are connected to you.
To Woohoo, I say “I am sorry.” To my Wednesday group, I say “I am thankful.”
To everyone else, I say find a group. Join a group. You’ll enjoy it, as will your newfound friends. We all need to be reminded from time to time we are not in this life alone. Particularly in times like when our mother passes.
— Jeff Tolman is a lawyer, municipal court judge, and periodic columnist for Kitsap News Group.
Copyright Jeff Tolman 2017. All rights reserved.