A few years ago, my email send out the dread “viral spam.” Every single person in my address book (friends, acquaintances, professional contacts) got the same message:
Hi. How are you? http://www.spamwebsiteaddresshere.com
A few people responded right away to tell me “your email has been hacked.” I spent the morning hoping the all the other recipients recognized it as spam and did not click on the accompanying link. I was annoyed, but not too worried about this modern day inconvenience we’re all pretty used to seeing by now.
Then, that afternoon, I got a response from someone I had once done some volunteer work for.
Thank you for asking. I am hanging in there. This has been a really difficult time.
Oh. Now, a dilemma. Should I come clean that it hadn’t really been me asking after her well-being? When I saw her later that day in the school parking lot, the answer became clear. Instead of telling her the truth, I gave her a hug. She had had a death in the family, and was in the early stages of processing that grief. She needed my hug more than she needed to hear an explanation of my email being hacked.
The next day, I got another response.
I’m okay. We’re all getting used to our new normal. And I am finally feeling a little bit better. My face was so swollen – it was scary for awhile there.
Oh. One of my precious young cousins, who was living through a major change in her family structure, had just found out the hard way that she is allergic to mangoes. We had a nice email exchange where hopefully I said a few encouraging words that helped in the moment.
These two responses prompted me to think about my “address book” in a different way. I sat down and thoughtfully read through each name. A few were deleted (e.g. the electrician in the city I hadn’t lived in in 5 years). A few stood out in my mind. People who were special to me that I had lost touch with because…life/parenthood/craziness. Then I hit the compose button, for real, and sent a message. The same one I’m sending you now:
Hi. How are you?