A year ago, I was talking with Katie — this was not an unusual thing, in fact I would say we were talking more often then, cramming time into the last few weeks she and her husband were here before they disappeared into the west.  But this particular day, she seemed so sad.  Did you hear about Maddie, she asked me?  No.  I listened as her voice took on the overly brisk tone she gets when she’s talking about something that upsets her.  Maddie was this baby, she told me, and her mom blogged, and everyone thought she was going to be okay, but she died.  She died this morning.

Katie isn’t someone who lets other people see her get choked up easily, so I was surprised when I saw her tearing up.  I don’t remember exactly what she said, but it was something to the effect of, it’s amazing how someone can be here one day, and then you wake up the next day and they’re gone, a baby is gone out of this world.

I didn’t really get it, at the time.  I mean, of course I understood why it was upsetting to think about a baby dying, taking with her a full life of potential and breaking her parents’ hearts.  That part made perfect sense, but even though I had spent years in online communities, I failed to grasp why this particular loss was so wrenching for my friend.  Not only my friend, but as she told me then, for a widespread community of bloggers.  In the year that has passed, I have read more about Maddie, and I begin to understand.  Begin.  I lurk on the blog, I follow @mamaspohr on Twitter, and I watch how this tiny life has touched so many.

With the internet, people say the world is just that much smaller.  It’s not that the world is smaller, it’s that our grasp is so much bigger now. We can reach so much more than we ever could before.  It’s inevitable that horrible things happen, as they always have, but now a young woman in New Orleans weeps for the child lost in California.  Now, thousands of people talk about her and know her through her mother’s eyes, and both her life and her death are inspiring people to try and make the world better. It is amazing.

(If you do not know Maddie, I strongly encourage you to go over there and get to know her a little bit today.  She and her family are amazing people.)

I don’t have the cred to be writing this blog post, by the way.  I’m not a part of this amazing, intertwined blogosphere full of Friends of Maddie, I just watch it from over here in the corn field.  But that, really, is why I am writing it — even from over here in the corn field, I can see how powerful Maddie’s legacy is, and I am in awe.  If only we were all able to have that kind of impact in such a short period of time.  If only all of us could touch as many lives, and make as much of a difference as Maddie and her mother can.

If only it didn’t take a tragedy for us to realize that we all have that ability within us, every day.

I challenge all of us to think about how we can change the world.  Do it now, do it without having to have your life turned upside down with grief.  Do it because it is the right thing to do, and because you can even if you don’t think you can.  Touch someone’s life today.  For Maddie.