Confusing Serendipity and God

March 10, 2010

This past Saturday, I was at IRT (Indiana Repertory Theatre).  I had just walked there from CFI Indiana and was very thirsty.  I went up to the refreshment counter to get a coke but then remembered that I only had one dollar in my purse.  I asked the price of a coke and was told it was two dollars.  I asked if they took cards and the lady said no. 

At that very moment, I heard someone say, "Hi, Reba."  I turned and there was my best friend from my public school teaching days, Pat.  So, I said, "Hey, you came along at just the right time.  I need a dollar so I can get a coke."

Three years ago, when a couple of people at CFI mentioned that Indiana should be thinking about opening a center, at first I was not interested at all.  Where would be get the money to support it?   I didn't want the burden of being responsible for a center and especially the financial worries of finding the money to keep it going.  I had been retired for a couple of years after spending 31 years in a building with no windows.  I was enjoying my freedom and especially being able to hike with Indianapolis Hiking Club and enjoy the great outdoors.  I felt like a bird out of a cage.  Why would I want to go back to being cooped up in an office all day?

However, I began to think about a possible location in case we did take that "leap of faith."   Criteria:  Central location.  Near the IUPUI campus.  I remembered from hikes along the downtown Canal Walk that there were office spaces there.  That would be centrally located since our membership was spread over the Indianapolis metropolitan area and it was just across the street from the IUPUI campus which includes the Indiana University School of Medicine , and the Indianapolis branch of the Indiana University Law School. 

Probably way too expensive for us to afford even if there were one available, I thought, but worth a look.   I had been at the Indiana State Capitol building for a HAPA rally concerning reproductive rights. The Capitol building is about three blocks from the Canal Walk.  It was sub zero temperature, the sidewalks were covered with ice and snow, and I was on the verge of a very bad cold.  However, I decided to brave it and take a look anyway.  So, I walked from the Capitol building, through the passage between the state office buildings, down the stairs to the Canal Walk, crossed the pedestrian bridge that spans the canal, walked about a block, and lo and behold, there was a door with a "For Lease" sign and a phone number.

Turns out the rent was much less than I had feared and I fell in love it.  Now, were I an evangelical minister, I would say that God led me to it. Right? 

So how to explain the above two incidents and the thousands of similar experiences that everyone has occasionally?  God?  No self-respecting Secular Humanist would say that!!  Pure coincidence?   Probably not. 

My friend and her husband have season tickets at IRT and it was not likely that many of my other friends would have turned up there.   So, that cut down the odds of it being pure chance.  I had in mind some criteria for a center location, I had hiked the canal walk many times and thought of looking there.  So, it was not pure chance that I found the center location.

One word for this is serendipity which The Free Dictionary by Farlex defines as (1) The faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident.  (2) The fact or occurrence of such discoveries.  (3) An instance of making such a discovery.  Wikipedia gives examples from Economics, Chemistry, Pharmacology, Medicine and Biology, Physics and Astronomy, Inventions, etc.  Wikipedia says, "Serendipity is the effect by which one accidentally stumbles upon something fortunate, especially while looking for something entirely unrelated. The word has been voted as one of the ten English words that were hardest to translate in June 2004 by a British translation company."  However, very religious people have a simple way to explain these types of experiences, "God did it."

Then there are those times in life, much more serious than needing an extra dollar to buy a coke, when someone just happens to come along at the right time.  The country song,  Angels Among Us [minus the religious references and viewing "angels" as a metaphor for a human being who happens along to be helpful instead of a supernatural being that swoops down from sky] is one of my favorites.  We can all think of individuals who were our human "angel" during trying times in life.

Oh I believe there are angels among us. 
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

They come to you and me in our darkest hours.
To show us how to live, to teach us how to give.
To guide us with a light of love.

When life held troubled times, and had me down on my knees.
There's always been someone to come along and comfort me.
A kind word from a stranger to lend a helping hand.
A phone call from a friend just to say I understand.

Now ain't it kinda funny at the dark end of the road.
Someone lights the way with just a single ray of hope.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

They wear so many faces; show up in the strangest places.
To grace us with their mercy in our time of need.