Last week we were in Shenandoah National Park and enjoying the sights and sounds of nature. One early morning I was on Facebook when I saw the status of one of my Facebook friends, an educator from Finland, Mika Vanhanen, saying that he was going to be in Shenandoah National Park that day. I couldn’t wait to tell him that I was there also! So, after some conversation, he wondered if we would have a chance to meet and he found out where his group would be heading for lunch. After discussion with my husband, we decided that instead of hiking that morning, we would head for the town where Mika was having lunch. This was such a great opportunity that I didn’t want to miss it and I’m so thankful that my husband indulges me when these things happen.
Mika was having lunch at the Smithsonian Conservation Biological Institute so we headed there. I was so thrilled to meet an online friend face to face! I also met others from his group from other countries. There were 20 people in the group representing 17 different countries. According to Mika’s Facebook page, he was “invited to join International Visitor Leadership Program. Three weeks and four states, to know about environmental protection.” I was truly honored that he was willing to take some time to meet me in person too!
It was fun meeting people from other countries. It makes the world seem like a smaller place. Hearing the different accents made the conversations interesting and hearing people talk about their own country was fun. When I was asked where I was from, I was reminded that not everyone knows where South Carolina is located. It also made me want to know more about their individual countries. All of these people were here in our country to learn about a common idea such as environmental protection and put aside any differences they might have politically in their own countries.
This is exactly why we need to encourage our students to make these connections. By doing this, they will realize how much in common we have with others around the world. Yet, they will learn and celebrate the differences. It can show our students that there are other things that are happening outside of political differences and that people can put aside these differences and get along when working towards a common goal.
This chance encounter renews my interest in someday visiting Finland. I see pictures of the beautiful country and now I have a real life friend who lives there! I see Finland in a totally different way now.
Have you had any chance encounters meeting online friends? Please share!
Original photo by Pat Hensley