Monday, March 11, 2013

Coincidence: Clues and Cues

Inspired by a recent episode of This American Life, I have been thinking a lot about coincidence. I love stories that unite random moments and chance meetings. I am fascinated by unexpected examples of connection that offer temporary proof of a meaningful life.

Since listening to the episode, I am trying to recall the coincidences that have happened to me. I came up with five examples. I ran the anecdotes by Nick and he questioned if they were all illustrations of coincidence. In his opinion, luck and serendipity were at work in a few.

However you want to classify them, these accounts have been plucked from obscurity to represent meaning. Some happened years ago and still, I hold them close to my heart. They have shone a light on ordinary days and created a memory that lives to provide significance.

My most recent instance occurred just a few weeks ago.

When we were in Boston, Nick and I went to a friend's for dinner. It was a forty minute drive from my parents' house and one town over from where my Mom grew up. The streets that take you from the main road to our destination were windy, wooded, and on this night, very snowy. We used Nick's phone for directions and planned on using it for the return trip. When we got out to the car, the map failed to find our location.

We tried to remember our way out and made guesses with each turn. After maybe ten minutes, I knew we were off track. The weather and the narrow roads made it too dangerous to pull over. We finally came upon an opening in the road, a small convenience store parking lot. I parked and called my Mom, hoping the area would be familiar enough for her to direct us home.

I told her the road we had been driving on and the name of the convenience store. She asked for a street sign. Behind us, I saw a street post with two street names and arrows pointing in opposite directions. I read the names off to her. Her voice changed with recognition. She said the street names back with a tongue of familiarity. I confirmed the streets and she let out a breath. She then gave me easy directions to a road that I would know.

The next morning my Mom informed me that I was sitting directly in front of the house where my grandfather was born and raised.

In the episode, it is mentioned that the stories always feel more powerful when they happen to us.  It is hard to view your own life through an objective lens. We desire a life of value and these glimpses show us a path, a larger force at work.

Despite that truth, a quote at the end of the podcast brings together why these stories still matter.

"There's just a poetry to things like this when they happen. There's some kind of beauty in it. There's meaning in the noticing of it at all."

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