Our desperation for human contact

Let’s consider the question William Novak, of Mesa, Arizona, asks today about his GoFundMe page that is raising money for him to go skiing in Vermont with complete strangers.

“There are much better causes,” he tells the Washington Post. “There are sick people, there are people who need to pay for college. This is 100 percent stupid.”

He provides his own answer.

“We live in a fairly depressing news cycle, so it’s nice to have something to break up the monotony.”

In truth, people are donating to better causes, too. The number of people who had extra insulin for the woman I wrote about yesterday, for example, was phenomenal. Others just wanted to give her money.

People want human connection and the donations to Novak — like the offers of help to the furloughed government employee I wrote about yesterday — are a cry out against the news cycle and its inhumanity.

Novak got an email from some friends of “Angelo”, who are putting together a ski weekend/bachelor party in Vermont. But he’s the wrong William Novak. The organizer got the email address wrong.

“All, I do not know who Angelo is,” he wrote back. “I am a Will Novak who lives in Arizona. Vermont seems like a very far way for me to travel for the bachelor party of a guy I’ve never met. That being said: … count me in! From the contents of this email, Angelo sounds tremendous and I want to help send him off in style. I hope his bride (or groom) to be, is awesome.”

Angelo’s friends wanted him to come anyway. William’s wife was OK with his flying halfway across the continent to do something with strangers he’s not particular good at: skiing.

And the nation’s strangers tossed him the money to do it. All of them become a little less “stranger” and a little more “friend” in the process. It’s what we long for. We just don’t acknowledge it very often.

As of this morning, he’s raised almost $3,000 of his $750 goal. The extra money will go to Angelo and his bride, he says.

This story should sound familiar. And it also involves a person in Mesa, Arizona, where Novak lives.

Wanda Dench sent Jamal Hinton a text in 2016 asking him to come to Thanksgiving dinner. She thought she was texting her grandson. Hinton was not her grandson but asked to come to dinner anyway. She said “yes”. They’ve become friends and he’s a regular at the November dinner now.

We are desperate for human contact. We are desperate for friendship.

These two facts lead us to ask a question Novak didn’t ask: Why do we put so much energy into achieving just the opposite?