“Coincidence, n.: A sequence of events that although accidental seems to have been planned or arranged.”
Recently, I got a call from one of my oldest friends. We went to the same summer camp in the 1960’s, a not particularly well-known place called Camp Northwood in the “pollen-free Adirondacks” of upstate New York (at least that’s what the camp logo said). The camp closed in 1968 and re-opened years later as a camp for children with special needs (although our wives claim that it was always a special needs camp). My friend had just returned from London, where two Englishman in their early twenties stopped him on the street one day to ask directions. The three of them started to chat and ended up in a pub. My friend asked if they had ever been to the U.S. One said that he had been to Florida. The other replied that he spent one summer working as a counselor in a small camp for special needs children in upstate New York. You can guess the rest. A coincidence? I don’t believe it for a minute.
I believe that when events seem to have been planned or arranged, they probably have been–we just don’t know how or why. It’s how I view the space-time continuum or cosmic order or kismet or whatever else you want to call it. Things happen for a reason–there are few true coincidences.
My friend’s call got me thinking about these things. When I was twenty-two, I started my second year at NYU Law School. I needed a part-time job, so I stopped by the school’s placement office. Tacked to the bulletin board outside the office, partially hidden by fliers announcing campus events, was an index card listing a law clerk opportunity at a small law firm called Lipper Lowey & Dannenberg. I called the contact person, a young lawyer at the firm, and arranged an interview. It turned out that we both had attended Columbia College, and he hired me on the spot without discussing it with the partners of the firm. A month later, he left to start his own practice, and even though I was only a second year law student, I suddenly became the firm’s de facto and sole associate, researching, writing, photocopying, serving, and filing my own briefs. I stayed at that firm for the next thirty-two years, where my name eventually went on the door and where I served as the managing partner for sixteen years.
How different my life wouyld have been if I had not seen that index card on the placement office bulletin board, or if that young lawyer and I did not have a Columbia connection, or if he had not hired me as he was getting ready to leave the firm. It turned out that I found myself at a firm and a practice for which I was perfectly suited. Sometimes in life things just happen for reasons that you can never comprehend, but I don’t believe that any of what happened to me was accidental.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.