Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Different Drug Store

"It's funny how some of the biggest, most dramatic changes in our lives happen almost by accident. If we hadn't gone to that particular drug store to buy toothpaste and tissues on that particular day, we might not have met an old friend whom we hadn't seen in years, who invited us to a party where we met somebody's accountant, who walked us over to this schoolteacher whom we fell in love with and married. Go to a different drug store and wind up with a different life."
-- Bernard Goldberg, Bias, p.14

I found this passage written on a scrap of paper as I went through old notebooks and pictures at my parents' house last week. I don't know what that comment was doing in a book about ethics in journalism, but I remember liking it and copying it down.

I still like it. I like thinking about how tiny details, choices, and circumstances work together to build the life we know. For example, I would not have the husband (and thus, the child) or the job I do had I not gone to Vanderbilt for grad school. Had one of my recommenders gotten her letter in on time, I might have gotten in to and ended up at Duke Divinity instead. A year later, had a different recommender gotten his letter in on time, I might have gotten in to and transferred to Duke after my first year at Vandy. Clearly, I was not meant to have gone to Duke! (It seems God is still "blessing me" with people who ignore deadlines, given the trouble I'm having this month with the magazine I edit!)

Had I not joined the church choir in 9th grade, I wouldn't have had the experiences that led me to a deeper faith, which in turn impacted so many other things in my life.

Had I not had such a bad experience at the middle school I attended, I would not have gone to the school I did for 8th through 12th grade, meeting people and learning things that dramatically shaped the person I've become.

Here's a simple one that anyone with kids can identify with (if one considers the complexity of reproductive biology): Had we not had sex when we did, we would not have the particular child we have.

Naturally, the flip side includes bad things that have happened because of seemingly arbitrary decisions. Had I not wanted to go out to eat that particular evening, or chosen a restaurant in that particular neighborhood, we wouldn't have been hit by that girl running a red light. And so on.

Our lives are a web of tiny circumstances--some routine, some random choices, some coordinated by God--that together make us who we are.

Had I not struck up a conversation with...
Had I not taken up that hobby...
Had I waited ten minutes later to...

What decisions in your life had bigger consequences that you imagined?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Had Ashley and I not set up our tent right behind that RV in Colorado, I wouldn't be in a serious relationship with Thomasjohn right now!


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