there are no accidents

this post is a follow up/part two to ‘boys to men,’ but i have a small confession that needs to be addressed before i continue delving into the raw depths of the human heart.

i’m pretty sure ‘kung fu panda’ has influenced a little too much of my world-view.

in order to keep some trade-secrets (and whatever self-respect is left in the tank) to myself, i won’t go into detail.  i just . . . i just had to say it.  

* * *

i don’t believe in accidents.  i believe things can happen accidentally, and i think there are lowercase accidents, but i think there is purpose in them.

let’s save us both a lot of talking in circles and come up with some terms/definitions/rules:

accidents:  they don’t exist.  bumping into a casual acquaintance at a bookstore and learning you and this person share an interest in a certain genre – something you would never have otherwise discussed – is not an accident.

accidentals:  a noun i’m creating – all of the tiny, seemingly inane, details that unfold in such a way as to lead to

intentionals:  another new noun! intentionals are, for the purposes of this post, what would normally be called ‘accidents.’

* * *

i don’t believe in accidents, because i do believe in response.

i believe that life is how we respond.

let’s go back to the gym, laptop guy (he was there today, and he stayed a healthy distance from me the entire time i was there), and the situation i chose to interrupt.

first, i’ll answer the prompt before actually laying out the details – i was supposed to be there.  i was supposed to have the opportunity to act.  i was supposed to have a choice.  the ‘men’ in the weight room also had a choice; they could have behaved like civilized human beings.

* * *

joel’s accidentals on april 19th that lead him to be in the gym at the time he was:

-i woke up later than i usually do on fridays, because memaw (my normal 10:00 am play-date on fridays) had an appointment.
-i was groggy from having not slept well all week – this time of year, our bedroom is always a little too hot.
-i picked up lunch for my sweet wife at lilly’s pizza.  the wait took a little longer than it should.

so, now, we’re planting seeds of slight discomfort due to lack of sleep and mild annoyance at the world.  let’s continue.

-i bought groceries at walmart around 1 pm, which is my usual gym time on fridays.  i went then because i was still tired and we had no food in the house.  this is the first time in months i was somewhere other than the gym around 1 on a friday.

-i watched about three ridiculous hours of national news coverage of nothing happening in boston.  i grew more and more irritated (though i was having fun in getting annoyed, which might be something i should discuss with my therapist) with the sensationalization of nothing.

-i realized, around 4:00 pm, that if i didn’t go to the gym then, i wouldn’t go at all, and i’d be antsy and even more irritable in the evening.

-i got to the gym, which is almost always completely empty on fridays, and it was slammed.  clearly, laptop guy and crony where there, but it was also an early release day in wake county, so every kid who has considered working out in hedingham decided to sit in the weight room and get in my way.

-the weather was sketchy all day.  impending severe weather turns me into a (bigger) jerk.  i feel rushed, like i need to finish whatever i might want to do before the storm hits.  i can’t really explain it any better than that.

* * *

all of these accidentals played into why i was in the gym at 5:25 when things went south. i needed to be there, and i needed to be cranky in order to have the courage to be confrontational and stand up for a girl who would have, otherwise, had no one else on her side in the room.

my accidentals – the seemingly random tiny events of my day – gave me the opportunity to do something.  to make a choice and face an intentional.

it was no accident that i was in the gym, it was no accident that i noticed both parties, it . . . was no accident.

* * *

‘joel, what’s the purpose of this post?  you’re telling us a lot about a day you already discussed.’

i’m glad you asked!

if there are no accidents (there aren’t), it is the responsibility of each of us, members of the human community, to be intentional in how we respond to opportunities.  if i knock over a drink by accident, my wife has an opportunity to face this intentional by showing patience with me and help me clean up my mess.

if there are no accidents,

then it’s our responsibility to pay attention to the things that disguise themselves as such. many of my most meaningful relationships began as ‘accidents’ – my wife and i met when we were scheduled to be co-counselors for half of one day at the ymca.

but, it was no accident, because . . . she’s having my baby.  i was supposed to meet her and fall in love with her in an afternoon.

* * *

so, here’s the portion of the post where i give instructions to the reader, which is always a little dicey.

do things on purpose.

respond with ferocious grace at every opportunity.

consider coincidence lazy and pursue the ‘why’ of ‘chance’ occurrences, because

there are no accidents.

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