I’ve used the word “kismet” quite a few times lately. It’s the only word that seemed to fit several series of events that have had my head spinning in the very best of ways.
Let me tell you about one of them.
If you read my last post, then you’re familiar with Joe — the hard-working overnight crew member at my gym. Well, as diligent as he is, every so often, he does still take a break. It was during one of those breaks that I saw Joe reading a book.
Being an avid reader and writer myself, I asked, “What are you into there?”
Joe stuck his thumb between the pages to hold his place and flipped the book over to show me the cover. Some peaceful golden sunset colors. Maybe a beach. I think there was a bird flying across it as well. “It’s, like, a book of life wisdom. Just short quotes,” Joe explained. “You could open the book anywhere and read it and then just think about it for a while and get something.” He handed me the book as he said this, with the clear implication that I should put this last bit to the test. My own thumb became the new bookmark and I flipped a page or two forward.
I read a two-line entry at the top of the right-hand page. I don’t remember exactly what it said. Something about Fate. It had an Eastern feel. I remember that I had agreed with the central idea. But at the moment, I was focused on Joe, curious to know more about why he had chosen to read the book. “Why this book?” I asked as I passed it back. “Is it something you’ve chosen to read? Or maybe something for a class?”
“Oh, not for a class. I’m just interested in learning more about life and philosophy, stuff that makes you think, y’know?” Joe said.
“And what do you do with the thoughts you’re pondering while reading this, after you’ve read them,” I asked.
Joe paused. “Ummm, I don’t know. Just kind of think about them and try to find the truth in them.”
Hmmm, I thought.
“Joe, if you’re into this kind of book, I have a recommendation for you. I’m not meaning to be the pushy salesman type, but … I’m actually a writer and author, and my current book is based on collective wisdom. It’s about living life in a way that matters. It’s called The Best Advice So Far.” I brought the Amazon page up on my phone to show him. “Each chapter has a central thought, just like the book you’re reading. And also like that book, you can skip around if you want; you don’t have to sit and read it straight through, cover to cover. Only my book is different because it doesn’t quite fit into philosophy or self-help or inspirational. It’s a lot of true stories, some of them pretty crazy, from my own experience, and the stories sort of illustrate the advice. Then it gets into how you can actually put the advice to good use in your own life, starting immediately.”
Joe squinted at the phone screen, seeming genuinely interested. “I’ll have to check it out. That’s really cool.”
Then an idea hit me. It occurred to me that I had one spare copy somewhere in my car.
I excused myself briefly and then returned with the book, presenting it to Joe. “If you really think you’ll read it, I’m happy to give you a copy.”
I continue to be amused and surprised whenever someone looks at the book, sees my name on it, then looks back at me incredulously like I’m famous or something. “Wow, you wrote this? That’s crazy.”
As I’m fond of saying, “I live with me, so I’m not that impressed.” But I didn’t say that aloud to Joe. Instead, I just smiled and said, “Yup. Think you’ll read it?”
“Oh, definitely,” Joe assured me, still ogling the cover.
We talked a few more moments about how the cover design had changed. I showed Joe the before-and-after shots. “Oh, yeah, the new one’s a lot better. Looks more … refreshing.”
I was happy to think of the revamped cover — and the content — as “refreshing.”
I told Joe I hoped he enjoyed it, then I jumped back into my workout.
When I left, Joe had set aside his first book and was a little ways into mine. Good feeling. I sincerely hoped he’d find something life-changing in its pages. “See you next time,” I said. And that was that.
Well, the next time came. And Joe stopped me as I came in.
“So … I’m about eight chapters into your book. But then my mom stole it from me. She’s the real reader. She read it in one day.”
“Wow,” I said. “Did she like it?”
“Well, it was funny. She did like it. And she also called me over and said, ‘I think I know some of the people in this book.’”
He definitely had me curious.
He continued. “She thought she knew that kid Chad you write about a couple of times, so she texted her friend to ask her if her son was the Chad in a book called The Best Advice So Far.”
Well, as it turns out … Joe’s mom’s friend was my friend Chad’s mom.
In fact, it turns out that Joe had attended the same high school as Chad, the year ahead of him, and Joe’s younger brother, John, was in Chad’s graduating class. They were all friends, and knew many of the same people I knew. Yet I’d never met Joe before he’d started at the gym two weeks prior.
I mean, what are the chances of Joe having been reading a book that was in line with my book …
and my having happened to have a spare copy in the car …
and Joe’s mother having happened to take an interest in the book …
and her having somehow pieced together the details about Chad without a last name …
and the kid I’d handed the book to having been fairly good friends with one of my closest friends who happened to be a featured character in my book?
Like I said — kismet.
Or was it?
I called Chad to tell him about the chain of coincidences that led back to him. And while we both marveled at it, Chad said, “Funny to think that all of those connections between people existed before you ever handed Joe the book. You just might never have known about them unless you had reached out, talked to Joe, asked about his book, and been willing to give away a copy of yours. It’s cool to think about how many similar ‘coincides’ are waiting to happen all around us, all the time — stuff we’ll only ever find out if we engage with people. If you hadn’t, Joe would still just be some nameless guy at the gym.”
And, of course, I hear in that “You always have a choice.”
Years ago, I mentioned in my post “guilty pleasures” (on shedding societal mores) that one of my favorite movies is Ever After. A memorable line from the movie seems apropos here. Says a spirited Leonardo da Vinci to Prince Henry of France:
“You cannot leave everything to Fate, boy. She’s got a lot to do. Sometimes you must give her a hand.”
It does seem to me that much of what we consider chance is really the result of choice.
At least a lot of the good stuff.