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Serendipity; I love it when it happens

Country Roads

Serendipity. It’s such a fun word to say but you don’t hear it used often.

Serendipity not only sounds good; it is good. Merriam-Webster’s official definition of the word is “the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for;

also: an instance of this.”

Serendipity can occur in many ways. For some, it may be finding a $100 bill on the sidewalk. For me, it usually involves meeting people in a surprising setting. An instance of serendipity occurred on a recent weekend.

Julie and I had driven to Orange City in Northwest Iowa to spend the weekend with her son and his family. Now that’s an agreeable thing to start with. Because of Covid we hadn’t been able to visit them in more than a year. Serendipity occurred on the Sunday morning of that weekend.

Julie and I spent Saturday night at a motel in Orange City. Only one other guest was enjoying breakfast in the hotel’s breakfast room when we walked in Sunday morning. Being an Iowan not known for timidity, I greeted the middle-aged man with a hearty “good morning.” He responded in kind.

As we gathered our breakfast from the hotel’s offerings, I asked where I could find coffee. The gentleman kindly directed me to the critically important beverage.

Julie and I had just started consuming our breakfast when a middle-aged woman walked up to our table and said, “Good morning, Arvid.”

I am uncomfortable when someone knows me but I don’t recognize them. I had absolutely no idea who she was. I am acquainted with a handful of Orange City folks but I knew she wasn’t one of them.

Apparently observing my dumbfounded expression, she kindly introduced herself. “I’m Konnie; Ken’s daughter.”

Oh my gosh, Ken is my cousin and we were close when we were kids. I know his children but simply did not recognize his daughter. We had chatted for a minute or so when I asked about her husband. “Where’s Bill?” I queried.

Konnie pointed to the gentleman to whom I had said “good morning” just a few minutes earlier. Dumbfounded no longer described my mood; I was now embarrassed.

We invited Konnie and Bill to join us at our table. They farm in southwestern Minnesota and were in Orange City for their daughter-in-law’s graduation from Northwestern College on Saturday.

We had been in Bill and Konnie’s home six years ago for her parents’ golden anniversary and saw them just 15 months ago at her mother’s funeral. There is no good excuse for not recognizing them.

We had a great conversation. They caught us up on Cousin Ken’s life and the lives of their three children.

It was a serendipitous moment and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Konnie and Bill again, in spite of my embarrassment.

This kind of serendipity has occurred a number of times in my life. I recall walking in downtown Phoenix some 25 years ago when a woman exclaimed, “Arvid! What are you doing here?”

She was a co-worker from the Sioux City Journal who had moved to Arizona with her husband several years earlier. Yvonne was an excellent worker and a great gal. It was good to see her again.

On that same trip to Phoenix, we enjoyed supper one evening at the famous Organ Stop Pizza parlor. While ordering our pizza I spotted an old friend from our church in Sioux City. Max and Irene were a sweet farm couple who had retired in Sioux City and spent their winters in Arizona. It was so good to see them again.

On an evening stroll in the Times Square area of New York City my wife and I ran into a Sioux City Journal co-worker. The writer, who was relatively new to The Journal, spotted me first. My wife looked puzzled when this attractive young woman she didn’t know called out my name on the dark street corner. I quickly introduced the two women.

Mary was the Journal’s fashion editor and was doing interviews in the nearby Garment District. She accompanied us to our hotel where she was also staying. All ended well. It, too, was a moment of serendipity.

Think of it this way: serendipity is coincidence in play clothes.

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