I have a long history of being intrigued by stories. I love learning how people made it from point A to point B, hearing about all the little twists and turns along the way, the opportunities that fell through, the people they met, seemingly by chance, that changed their course of action. I love hearing about the “coincidences” that caused them to end up at the right place at the right time.
One of my very favorite stories is of a friend who went through a nasty breakup and swore off dating. Before all this happened, she met the son of her manager. She liked him well enough, but she was in the aforementioned relationship and the son lived in England. A few years later, not long after her breakup, her manager passed away and she once more crossed paths with his son, this time at his father’s funeral. Their meeting was entirely polite, but she was a jaded and he had just buried his father and so, they parted ways once more as acquaintances
Months later, on a girls’ trip to New York City, she stepped onto a sidewalk after dinner and heard someone call her name. It was him. He was in New York on business. Both of them were miles upon many miles from home, and yet, there they were – in the middle of the Big Apple, on the same sidewalk, at the same time. They exchanged small talk and phone numbers on that same sidewalk. Fast forward through thousands of phone calls and emails and a number of transatlantic visits, they are now happily married.
They had known of each other for quite some time, been on the edges of one another’s social circles for ages. When the timing was right, the universe lined up its events to put them in the right place at the right time. Think of how extraordinary their story is – two people, from different parts of the world, finding one another in one of the world’s busiest cities, among millions of people.
Sunday, I went to Barnes & Noble in search of a book they didn’t have in stock. I made to leave, intending to order it from Amazon, when another book, When God Winks, caught my eye from its spot on a lower shelf. I picked it up, flipped through a few pages, and decided to buy it.
The book is written by SQuire Rushnell, a former ABC executive, and it details his experience with coincidence. In short, he doesn’t believe in coincidences. He refers to them as “God winks,” signs that we are on the right path. Throughout the book, he shares a number of uncanny occurrences, from his personal life to his career, as well as stories and anecdotes from others.
What stood out to me about When God Winks is the author’s encouragement to actually do something about those winks. What if the universe aligns all its parts and pieces for us to go to a party or a job interview, but at the last minute, we decide to stay in and order Chinese or that now is not the time to leave our current job? We have the free will to decide not to show up to the dance, delaying the inevitable. And, I do believe it – whatever it is – is inevitable.
One of my favorite anecdotes in When God Winks tells how a woman went on a “spiritual vacation” to Israel where she entered the shop of an artist who took one look at her and said “I have something for you.” He gave her an etching of a man embracing a woman and child. The man had beams of light behind him. After returning home to New York, the woman received a postcard inviting her to an event. She had just moved to the city a few weeks before her trip, and didn’t know how anyone would have her address. Still, she went to the gathering.
The gathering was for the local Jewish community, meant to bring them together and help grow their faith. When she met the event’s organizer, her jaw hit the ground. He was the exact likeness of the man in the etching. He proceeded to tell those gathered of a dream he had in which rays of light were shooting from his body. Today, they are married with two kids.
SQuire’s point wasn’t just about the events that lined up in order to bring these two together. It was also about the fact that they each took risks. They each acted. The man very nearly canceled the event, worrying over whether he was the right one to lead it and whether people would even show up. The woman debated on whether she would go or not. In the end, she accepted the invitation to go, and then followed a gut feeling that urged her to stick around and say hello to the man that looked like the one in her etching.
I think that is the part of this book that pulled me in – the need to act. While I can list off all sorts of fun “coincidences” – or God Winks – both good and bad from over the years, I can also list off a number of times in which I didn’t act. I didn’t say hello or reply to an email or go to a party. The need to “take a risk” has become a lesson that has been shoved in my face a lot lately and so, I’m paying attention. I’m taking more risks. I’m saying yes to more invitations. I’m saying hello.
Well… I’m trying to say hello… Baby steps.
Some of you may simply believe in coincidences. You may not believe everything happens for a reason or that coincidences are really sign posts along our journey, telling us if we are on the right path. That’s okay. For me, I choose to trust in those winks. I even had one while writing this. There is an advanced class at the studio I have been wanting to train on how to teach. I was thinking this morning of asking if I could be trained to teach it – because why not? And then, while I was walking back from the gym, the studio owner sent out a message about training to teach the class.
God winks, friends.
What about you? Do you believe coincidences are just that – coincidences? Or, do you believe they are something else?