Serendipity-Do

My stepdaughter is a wedding photographer and shot a wedding in New York City over the weekend. Her husband tagged along and they made a mini vacation out of it. We got to dog-sit our “granddog,” Jubilee. When they came over Sunday for dinner and to pick up the dog, we started talking about coincidences. While doing some site-seeing on the Brooklyn Bridge they heard someone call out my son-in-law’s name. Lo and behold, friends from their college here in Illinois were also there on vacation. At the same time. In New York. On the Brooklyn Bridge. Nearly 1000 miles away.

There have been volumes written about the topic of coincidences. Chance? Fate? Luck? Or merely mathematical probability? Theories abound from people much smarter than I. All I know is that I am fascinated by them. I also feel like I’ve had more than my share of them in my life.

How often have you said “what are the odds…?” or “small world!” My cousin and I share the same birthdate. My brother and my aunt share one too. I have a total of only seven first cousins, and only four aunts (and their corresponding uncles). Not one but two birthday matches? Weird, right?

I live in a fairly close knit community now, so when a woman who gets her taxes done at the CPA Firm where I used to work shows up in my yoga class, it’s not that big a deal. But when I lived in Chicago – the third most populous city in the United States – kismet seemed to be all around me.

In high school, I had a science teacher named Mr. Rapinchuk. When I came home and mentioned that name, my Mom told me that we had neighbors at our old house with that name. We had moved when I was only two, so I didn’t remember them. I went to school the next day and asked him about them. Sure enough, they were his cousins.

Another of my high school teachers – science again – was Mr. Viator. Prior to joining my school’s faculty, he taught at St. Rita, a catholic boys’ high school in Chicago. As my name is Rita, you might think that is where the coincidence ends, but no. My sister’s husband had been one of his students.

Speaking of high school, I had travelled from my new home in St. Louis back to the Chicago suburbs for my 20 year reunion. At that time, my stepdaughter was also living in St. Louis with her Mom. I was catching up with my old friend John and he reminded me that he had been born in St. Louis and lived there until the second grade. Where had he gone to school? Why the same school as my stepdaughter of course – a small catholic school with only about 350 students.

School wasn’t the only place where these connections found me. At my last job before moving from the city, there were people who I had links to. Out of a staff of only about 30, one coworker lived in the house next door to my aunt. The other had lived in my apartment a few years before I did. Not in my apartment building, but in my actual apartment! With the thousands upon thousands of rental properties in the city, how could that be?!

But by far the most unbelievable coincidence I experienced was while vacationing in Mexico about thirty years ago. The dining room of the all-inclusive resort had large tables. Unless you asked specifically to sit at a certain table, you and your party were seated randomly with different people each night – what I came to think of as “restaurant roulette.” It was fun meeting a diverse group of new people each evening. One night, I was seated next to a lovely woman about 10 years older than me. As the inevitable “where are you from?” question made the rounds of the table, she shared that she was from Bogota, Colombia. When I told her where I was from she proceeded to tell me that her nephew had spent a year as an exchange student in a Chicago suburb. That’s interesting – which one? You guessed it. Not only had he attended my high school but I knew him. We were not close friends, but we had some classes together.

So what do you think? Is synchronicity at play here or is it all just a matter of statistical probability? As Elaine and Rava debated on the old Seinfeld episode: are there big coincidences and small coincidences, or just coincidences?

I like to think we’re all connected. Don’t you think it makes life so much more interesting?

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