Kristen Turberville Haffey
The word serendipity was coined by Horace Walpole in a letter he wrote in 1754. Here is the quote as taken from Wikipedia:
"I once read a silly fairy tale, called The Three Princes of Serendip: as their highnesses traveled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of: for instance, one of them discovered that a mule blind of the right eye had traveled the same road lately, because the grass was eaten only on the left side, where it was worse than on the right—now do you understand serendipity?”
Serendipity is the unexpected discovery of something valuable that occurs when we are seeking something else. Our lives are, all of them, filled with moments like this. Moments where we can, if we open ourselves up to the possibilities, experience unexpected gifts and opportunities. Not only that, we have opportunities to provide this experience to others.
On my way back from Tucson via Phoenix several years ago I was on a very crowded plane and I was exhausted. I knew that upon my arrival in Philly I was facing several days of temporary single mother status with dog, chickens and a child who all needed my 100% attention. It was my full intention to get into my seat, curl up with a tiny airline pillow and paper thin airline blanket and sleep. There was a lovely young woman sitting next to me reading a book. We exchanged pleasantries and I realized rather quickly that she needed to talk. I really did not want to talk, and I was feeling put upon and annoyed at having to start a conversation. Yet, something in me was making it infinitely clear that I was supposed to talk to this young woman.
We struck a conversation that lasted the entire flight from Phoenix to Philly. She was on her way back from missionary work in Phoenix. She had a thyroid condition that needed doctor’s care and had reluctantly agreed to go home to Pennsylvania to see a doctor. As we talked, I shared my stories and she shared hers. She began to tell me about her music and her art. Her eyes were literally sparkling with excitement as she talked about how much she loved the Beatles and playing her guitar. How she’d played with her friends in a band and she really missed wearing her Converse all star sneakers (I had mine on that day by chance.) Her mother had encouraged her to pursue her art and music, but she wasn’t sure it was possible.
Suddenly I realized this girl was at a crossroads and she needed someone to listen to her story and to offer some sage advice. "Yes, yes!" I said, "You can do what you love and make money. It is possible. Yes! You’re so young; you have so much future ahead of you, anything you can dream is possible. Yes!" As we talked and shared stories and our passion for creativity I watched her face light up more and more. I was deeply impressed with this articulate, passionate young woman. The plane pulled into Philly. I gave her my card and asked her to stay in touch.
Not long after I received an email from her mother. She told me she was thrilled to have her daughter home. This thyroid condition was potentially quite dangerous. The tests were being done and in the meantime her daughter was playing music again. She asked if I would stop in from time to time and stay connected with her daughter. Of course I said yes. Not long after I got an email from her daughter. The thyroid condition was potentially cancerous. She might have to undergo chemo, they’d know after surgery that month. It seemed so unfair. She joked that she’d buy some erasable markers to draw on her hair everyday. I told her that’s the attitude she’d need to beat this thing.
This was the last line in her email:
“I'm so glad I got to sit next to you on the plane...you have no idea how much you helped me. Thanks. :)”
That...my friends...is serendipity. Every moment of every day we are presented with opportunities just like this. Casual moments that seem innocuous enough...and yet they are infused with deep significance for someone else. These are gifts. Open them with due reverence. You can be an instrument of compassion and change, just by being willing to listen, to say thank you, to be kind, to be compassionate and to move out of yourself especially when your instinct tells you not to. The real serendipity is in the way these moments shift your reality for the better. You may never know how you’ve touched someone else’s life, you may never get a thank you or an award. It doesn’t matter. The award is the unbridled joy that comes from finding the compassionate heart.
Above is a video of this lovely young woman Kristen singing an original song on YouTube. Isn't she amazing?!