I was thinking about how much I am mourning New York Times reporter David Carr. I never met him even once, though many of my friends and colleagues remember him as a treasured friend and mentor. I particularly liked this remembrance, and this, and this.

Carr’s death stops me in my tracks for many reasons. He was struck down at the top of his game. He had such tremendous human vitality. I would so look forward to catching his latest column on my morning commute. He was just someone who made my life a little brighter, provided a flash of wit and insight, delivered with apparently effortless style.

As I thought about him, I started thinking about a few wonderful friends living with advanced cancer, about the morning last week when I happened to break bread with two good friends who are pretty amazing in their different ways, who I hadn’t seen in awhile.

We all know so many amazing people who light up our lives in routine everyday ways. We take them for granted. How could we not? You can’t start every morning sending effusive emails to every friend, acquaintance, let alone every stranger who makes life a little more special today. It’s more than too time-consuming. It would be staggering even to draw up the list.

We often don’t notice these special people until something unexpected happens that snatches them away. But they are there. Our lives are part of something so much bigger than ourselves.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

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Harold Pollack is the Helen Ross Professor at the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago.