Monday, April 1, 2013

Coincidence? Maybe.

Do you believe in coincidences?  Or, more to the point, do you believe there are no coincidences? Do you feel that two experiences or events that are closely related by time or space or some other association … may have some purpose? And do you feel there’s a purpose … every time?  

It’s probably a hybrid of my faith as well as life experiences, but I fall in the No Coincidences camp. Although I will freely admit three things: First, it will not always be clear why a specific “coincidence” occurred and it may never be clear; not until the next life. Second, I believe our relationships in this life are purposeful and tied together. I don’t know that it is ever any type of “coincidence” to know the people we know. I would say, rather, it is Providence. And third, coincidences are rarely tied to birthdays. For example, consider the following conversation:

Friend #1: When is your birthday?
Friend #2: April.
Friend #1: MINE TOO! April WHAT?
Friend #2: April 13th.
Friend #1: Mine is the 24th! What are the odds??!

Uhm, the chances that two friends have a birthday in the same month? I’m no mathematician, but I believe the odds are…1 in 12? That’s not a coincidence, that’s algebra.

Anyway, I was recently listening to an NPR episode of This American Life, and they were re-telling stories that listeners had sent in regarding really incredible coincidences. I mean, some truly uncanny stuff.  Like a student who’s car broke down in rush hour traffic on a busy highway and the one person who happens to stop and come to her rescue – her dad; who lived four hours away. Or Steven and Helen, who get engaged and when their parents meet, they find out that Steven’s dad had dated Helen’s mom back in Korea in the 1960s. You can listen to the entire podcast here.

Of the many coincidences in my life – some profound and personal and some silly, here are two that jumped into my memory right away, for whatever reason.

Coincidence One: In January 2008 we were living in Las Vegas and our entire family took a vacation to Florida to visit some friends and go to Disney World. It was the end of the day at Magic Kingdom and my son decided he wanted a sword – a sword available only at the store just outside of Pirates of the Caribbean, on the other side of the park. Because I was campaigning for Dad of the Year, I didn't even complain, just grabbed his hand and bolted across the park. We’re buying the sword and the cashier looks at my credit card and license and says, “Hey, Las Vegas! Do you like living in Vegas?”

“Sure,” I answered.
“Oh, we live in Las Vegas!” said the couple directly behind us in line.
“Yes, what part do you live in?”
“Way up in the northwest,” I answered.
“So do we; we’re off the 95 and Durango.”
“So are we…we live off of Brent,” I raised my eyebrows.
“So do we, we live on Wind Warrior.”
“So do we,” I said.

Here I am, literally on the opposite end of this big country of ours, on a random night, in a random line, in a spot that I ran across the park to get to in a last-minute effort … to find myself standing next to a couple who lived precisely six houses up from me back in Las Vegas. We had never run into each other on the street or at neighborhood activities. We had to go to Disney World to bump into each other. Coincidence?

Coincidence Two: When I returned home from my LDS mission in the summer of 1992, my friend, Melissa, called me the next day and asked if she could visit. We had been good friends before I left on my mission, and I was excited to see her. We talked about life before my mission, I told her some of my mission experiences (as RMs are want to do) and she told me she was excited about her mission call to Iowa – where she would be heading in about two months. Outside of my family, Melissa was the first person I saw after my mission.

In the spring of 1994 I took a trip with some friends to St. Louis, Missouri. As part of our trip, we took a couple of days to drive up to Nauvoo and visit a few Church History sites. It was while we were on a tour of the site where the Prophet was martyred that one of my friends leaned over and whispered, “Somebody is staring at you.” I looked where my friend motioned and standing there, in the middle of Carthage Jail, mouth wide open, completely gob-smacked, was my friend, Melissa. You could have knocked me over with an issue of Times & Seasons. She was there with her parents, who had just picked her up at the end of her mission and decided to see some Church History sites before heading home to California. Outside of her family, I was the first person Melissa saw after her mission. Coincidence?

For the life of me, I cannot pin down any specific and life-altering reasons for these “coincidences.” I have a couple of theories and impressions…but I can’t point at a direct cause or effect. I don’t know the purpose. Yet.

Do you believe…in coincidences…? What are yours?

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