strangers

Why the Internet Can Be Good (RE: Alex Rayfiel)

The other day as I was scrolling through Facebook, I saw a link a friend posted that caught my eye. It had a picture of a boy named Alex, who I’d gone to high school with, attached to an article whose title didn’t quite register until after I clicked it.

When the page loaded, my face went white. Alex was sick. Recently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. His family had created a donation page in the hope of raising money for a radical new treatment in Israel. I read through the story his wife posted, aching for the two of them and their newly born daughter. It all sounded so completely unfair.

Now, I’d never known this guy. We’d gone to high school together for four years, and I’d seen him around from time to time, but never got to know him. In fact, I only met him once in a brief introduction from a mutual friend at our shared college. But as I read the story about the turn his life has suddenly taken, I realized I remembered him, and how, even in our lack of interaction, he’d left a mark on me.

High school is tough for everyone, often in different ways, and while I wouldn’t say I had a terrible experience, I also wouldn’t volunteer to do it all over again. I was a quiet, reserved student who stuck to what she knew and rarely felt comfortable in her own skin. That being said, Alex made me laugh.

He and his friends had participated in the talent show as the “Finger Flippers” which became legendary amongst our senior class. And during our senior luncheon, they created a video that discussed which of our classmates had celebrity lookalikes. I remember sitting at the back table, nervous as always, counting down the days until I graduated. I hadn’t been sat next to any of my friends, and I was internally apologizing to the people around me for not being more interesting. But then the lights went down and the video started, and I laughed through the whole thing. It was a genuine laugh, the kind that makes you feel lighter, and as I looked around the room at my classmates who felt the same, I felt included. Afterwards, when Alex and his friends mentioned they had plans to post the video to YouTube I took note, excited to have something positive to look back on in the future. I’d forgotten about the video over all these years, and only found it when I searched his name. When I watched it again however, it still gave me that good feeling.

So as I read through his story and then through some of the comments, I couldn’t help but feel drawn to donate, not only because it was the right thing to do, but because it felt like a way I could say thank you for giving me those moments of freedom all those years ago. And even more, allow me the opportunity to be a part of offering him the chance to experience a moment of freedom in the future. Be it through minor progress, or radical recovery.

This is the good part about the Internet. For amongst all the drama and fake personas, there also lie small bursts of goodness. There are chances to read stories of hope and resilience, chances to reconnect with old friends and family, and sometimes, chances to lend a hand to a near stranger. And so, Alex Rayfiel, while we may remain essentially strangers, I hope you know I’m praying for you, and that I’m grateful for what you gave me all those years ago, even if you had no idea. I wish you and your family all the best, and I hope the next time I find you in my Facebook feed, it will be to inform me that you’re on the road to recovery.

If you want to help Alex, you can find his donation page here.

Sometimes I Find Myself Thinking About Harry Styles

Fact.

No, this isn’t where I take you into some weird part of my mind. Things aren’t going to get scandalous or uncomfortable. I just want to know what’s what with the guy, because like most people who know of him, I don’t know him.

When you find him in magazines or interviews, people are always asking him about his career, his clothes, his love life. They ask about things that people “need” to know. The dirt. The “awwwwwww”.

But I don’t want to know that stuff.

I want to know what book he’s reading. Did he watch Parks and Recreation? Does he appreciate a good arts and crafts station at a family Christmas party? What’s the most creative dish he’s made with miscellaneous ingredients in his pantry?

I want to know how on earth he gets up every morning knowing he’s a fantastically ordinary person, forced to accept that the world holds him to a far higher standard than themselves.  I want to know what it’s like on those mornings when he looks into the mirror and frowns, only to be shuffled off to an interview and asked about his position as a sex symbol. I want to know what it’s like to have every media accessing human being on the planet analyze how I sneeze and eat and breathe. And I want to know what it is about what he does that makes him and every other “celebrity” put up with all of this. There must be a magic to it. The type you can’t spend.

I suppose I just wonder what his humanness is like, because contrary to what people might think, I don’t think it’s all that different from the rest of ours.

I want to know the opinions he has on the world, and not just the ones he’s told to share. I want to know the things he says in their natural air, not that in which the media has stripped down and endlessly twisted. But I suppose I want to know these things about most people, “celebrity” or not, for strangers are a curious thing.

In his book Paper Towns, John Green wrote, “What a treacherous thing to believe a person is more than a person.” And while I completely agree, I think a similar crime is committed when we believe we are less of a person compared to another.

We are all human, regardless of how many people know our face or how much money fills our wallet. We are all fantastically ordinary and unique, which in turn makes individually extraordinary.

So those times I think about Harry Styles, I’m really thinking about everyone I’ve yet to meet. I’m wondering what’s what with all the brains working alongside my own in this world. And I think we should all go get burritos and talk about it.