Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Small World Connections

Small World Connections

When "small world connections" happen, the world seems small!

When “small world connections” happen, the world seems to shrink!

I love “small world” connections. Don’t you?

This week has been rich with small world connections for me and my family.

Our daughter Beth was here on the weekend. She features in two of the small world connections.

Next Door Neighbors

We’ve lived in Westport, in the same house, since 1993. Our next door neighbors moved into their house in 1995. We’ve met a couple of times several years ago, and spoken on the phone a couple more. When I sit at my desk and look out the window, I see their house. I’ve watched their three sons, now adults, going in and out.

Isn’t it strange how we can live so close and not know each other?

Leslie, the neighbor, greeted me by name at the Westport Country Playhouse last Friday night. We exchanged a few sentences. I had no idea who she was.

I said, “Please remind of your name.” She told me and I was no wiser. Then she added, “We’re your neighbors. I’m here with my husband Guy.” Then I knew! We spoke further, and agreed it was deplorable that we barely knew each other.

I learned she’s a gynecologist; I told her my daughter who was coming the next day was a gynecologic oncologist. We said we’d get together over the weekend.

On Saturday evening Leslie came over. She and Beth had lots in common. Less than 15 minutes into their conversation Beth was describing her work on the HPV vaccine at Merck. Leslie said, “My brother worked on that too.”

“What’s his name?” Beth said. She couldn’t believe it when Leslie told her! Leslie’s brother and Beth had worked and traveled together several years ago. They knew each other well. Leslie texted her brother who replied right away, delighted to hear that Beth and Leslie were together!

Westport to Japan, a Small World 

Japan from Wikipedia map

Japan from Wikipedia map

On the last Sunday in October, Chris and I, board members at The Unitarian Church in Westport, led a conversation session for nine congregants, “Coffee with the Board.” I chaired the planning for the event. A few days afterwards, I emailed to ask him to draft a report for the board.

On Sunday evening I had an email from him. “I will take a stab at writing the report. In Japan right now and just saw the Trump motorcade go by outside our office, moments ago.”

I had just finished listening to news about Trump arriving in Japan. It felt like the world got really small for a few moments!

Small World: Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation and LinkedIn

I heard from a friend who is in finance. He asked if I knew anyone at an investment firm in California. I thought about friends from the Yale School of Management. But no one I could think of was at that firm.

“No, I don’t think so,” I emailed back.

He replied in an hour. “Actually, you are connected to one of their board members on LinkedIn,” he said. “Rachel Maxwell is your friend. Do you know her well?”

I remembered that she had been a donor to the Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation. I was on the board of that organization and helped with fundraising. I spoke with her to thank her for her gifts, and probably to ask for more! I had forgotten we connected on LinkedIn.

But I recalled dimly that there was a more personal connection too. Wasn’t she somehow tied to my dear friend Denny?

I had just met Denny’s son, and saw on LinkedIn that he was also a friend of Rachel’s. So I sent off a quick email to ask him what the connection was.

In 30 minutes I had the reply. Denny’s close friend Janet, whom I met two weeks ago, is Rachel’s mother!

Mystery solved. Of course I looked Rachel up and found her excellent TedX talk.

I couldn’t make sense of the name of the libraries! Finally I got it: Sno Isle!

Then I could – and did – email her to establish the connection for my friend who set the chain in motion!

Small World: Women in STEM and Mount Holyoke Connection

My daughter gave me another small world story when I told her what I was writing.

“I’ve been helping with planning for the “Inspiring Women in STEM” conferences for several years,” she said. “I’ve been working with a woman named Laura. We work well together.

“On a phone call yesterday, she mentioned that she had gone to a women’s college. I said, ‘I did too. Which one?’ She answered, you can guess – ‘Mount Holyoke!’ ”

Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show

Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show

Sweden Twice in Two Seconds

At the table this morning I was reading The New York Times on my iPad. I do this nearly every day while I eat breakfast and drink my first cup of coffee.

I was looking at “Best of Late Night,” specifically Trevor Noah. He was noting how quickly President Trump distanced himself from Ed Gillespie who lost on Tuesday night.

Sweden from Wikipedia

Sweden from Wikipedia

“I bet you one day when the U.S. economy crashes,” Noah said, “Trump’s gonna be like, ‘What a loser economy! I’ve never even heard of America. I’m from Sweden. Guten Tag.’ ”

Two seconds after I read that, my husband looked up from his email and said, “I got a reply from Sweden.”

Not exactly small world, but certainly a coincidence! It spooked me for a few minutes.

Frank Sesno Asks Questions

I just came home from hearing Frank Sesno speak. I’ll tell you more next time!

Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.


  1. Thanks to my mother for always reminding us how important personal connections are!!

  2. Small World Story: when I was on the GA Planning Committee planning the GA in Ft. Lauderdale June meeting our Local Committee Chair and learning he was an OBGYN. I asked him, casually, where he had trained and he said U Minnesota. I mentioned that my father in law, Dr. Emil Holmstrom, had even on the faculty there. “Oh, I know Dr. Holmstrom,” David said, “I was his resident.” Then, across the room a member of the UUA Board who was the Local Chair of the Portland, OR Ga piped up, “I don’t believe this! My mother was Dr. Holmstrom’s nurse!”

    Yep, small world.

  3. I love the small world story. It keeps getting more and more amazing as more and more pieces just happen to fit.

  4. Catherine, I too love small world stories but the one about Beth & Leslie’s brother is outstanding & wonderful. It’s also a 6 degrees of separation story.