If you believe everything you see in the media, you would be convinced all that lurks online are paedophiles, perverts, sex addicts and any other nasty you can think of.
Sure they are there but so too are all the most beautiful things as well.
My foray into "online" started way back when A first received his implant and I was online reading all I could on that subject. That foray online lead to the formation 10 years ago of CI Circle, a wonderful internet resource for parents that are seeking information about implants for their child, or contact with others who walk the same path, but perhaps are further along in the journey and able to offer advice based on real life experiences.
In my time online I have "met" so many beautiful people. I use the word "met" because I have met almost none of them face to face in person. I have met some of their children when they have travelled half way around the world and stayed with me, yet I haven't met their parents. Most recently Rachel came to stay with me which was very exciting as her mother and I have been online friends for quite some time now.
When CI Circle first started 10 years ago, there were 9 original members including me. All of the original 9 still communicate with each other today 10 years on. Granted not always as often as we would like but we still stay in touch, update each other on things going in our lives. We have shared in the highs and lows of births of children, illness of family and friends, marriages not surviving and other moments of personal reflection. At Christmas we send cards to each other and if you are really organised like Heidi you even get them to Australia from the USA not only in time for Christmas but with a family photo included. Each year I aspire to be as organised as Heidi but I haven't quite got there yet - my cards went, but not in time to get there by Christmas though : - )
Another person I have come to know in more recent times is Val. Val is it doing it kind of tough at the moment with her sweet boy having his implant removed because of infection and now going through all the processes attached to it. Not that Val would let you know it though, I am not sure I have ever met such a glass half full kind of person, she is truly amazing. As she said herself, you can't sit around feeling sorry for yourself or else you will get left behind while life goes on! There are a few of us CI Circle Ladies as Val calls us who have tried to be there for Val and her son. Not that we are close enough to be able to go over to her house bearing wine and chocolate, but she is in our thoughts and we send her messages at different times, even whilst she was in hospital and her son in surgery we were emailing knowing she could read them on her phone! Yet none of us would be in each others lives unless we had "met" online.
Jodi's blog today talks of someone she "met" online who she finished up exchanging gifts with. This lady had a profound effect on Jodi and many others as she spent many hours offering advice and support to parents via the Listen-Up forum. Such was her positive impact on so many, there is currently an outpouring of grief at her recent passing from inflammatory breast cancer. It is quite a thing when you stop to think about it that we as humans have this capacity to give such warmth and compassion and support via a written forum over the internet that can have such a profound effect on the lives of others that we have never "met" and in most cases probably never will.
It isn't that our friends and family at home don't love us and cherish us and be there for us. It is just that there is something about connecting with someone who has walked the same path, been on the same journey. All our stories have little differences in comparison to each other but none the less, there is this connection we feel. This shared journey connects us all. For each of us on our journey, we have "met" many people online but there is for all of us, a small bunch of people that we connect with at an even higher level. They become our dearest friends, who we share many of our thoughts and feelings with, and they with us. They become almost like our extended family spread all over the world. The funniest thing I find is if I go to speak to a friend or family member here about one of my "online family members" - I laugh at the look on their faces. WHAT THE ???? is clearly spread across their faces.
"You have never met this person in real life though"
"But you know so much about them and their families"
"But you have never met them, right?"
"Ah no, not in person"
And so it goes on! I guess if you haven't had it happen to you, you just don't get it.
I have been so fortunate to have so many amazing people join my extended family, my online family I haven't met in person : - )
However my New Year 2009 is looking very very exciting when I am going to get to meet in person one of my oldest and dearest online family members. She is one of the original 9 members that CI Circle started with. She and I have similar family dynamics, two sons pretty close in age, oldest being the one with hearing loss, both of our boys having implants. Her son is married now but when we met he was in high school/college days. I jokingly called her the "den mother" as she was the one of us with the oldest child and who had walked the pathway well before us. She and I just clicked right off the bat and enjoyed our conversations with each other online. In the most amazing display of generosity, this den mother has offered her accrued airline points to fly moi to the USA for the Cochlear Celebration conference in March 2009!!! She lives close enough to where the conference is being held that I am going to stay with her and we will commute to the conference each day. I was so astounded at her offer I must have asked her several times "are you sure about this?" - she was and my flight is now booked. I am so unbelievably excited. I am getting to finally meet one of my oldest and dearest online friends. I keep pinching myself to make sure I am not dreaming.
The funny thing is one of the things she shared with the group of 9 was how much she wanted to re-do part of her garden and then we shared the time with her when she finally had it done and had this beautiful part of the garden where she could just go and sit and have a cup of tea and enjoy her surroundings. When I knew for sure I was going, that was the first thing I thought of, that I would be able to sit in her garden with her and share a cup of tea in her special piece of serenity in her part of the world - how awesome will that be???
I'm sure I am preaching to the choir here since you are all onliners reading this, but there sure are some beautiful things to be found online.