Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Serendipity--The Art of Making Happy Discoveries

Hey all,

Just what is serendipity?  You see it used in's the name of movie, and song lyrics sometimes use it--if they can find a word to rhyme.  But what does the word really mean?  In Webster's Online Dictionary, it says this...
: the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for

But I've got to say, that is a tepid and boring definition for a word describing something that--if you let it--can change your life.

Sometimes the serendipitous phenomenon is small--finding a wonderful new place for afternoon tea when you were looking for a place to buy shoes.  Other times, it can be momentous, like when you're shopping in the grocery store and while you're picking out the best apples, you look up and there he is.  And you see your future in his eyes.

That's serendipity.

I find serendipitous things can happen all the time.  Because for me, serendipity isn't just a noun, it's a verb.  A way of looking at things.  An action I choose to take.  The coolest part is YOU have the control over it.  Serendipity is a choice most of the time.  You can receive the gift of it or ignore it.  I've learned to be truly happy in life, you must learn to embrace each serendipitous moment with all you've got.  Because when you do, something awesome happens.  

You can turn a moment of disaster into a moment of triumph.   

Let me give you an example.  On Sunday, I wanted to do something special for Jonathon for Father's Day.  We're away from the kids and we miss them, so when he got off work I'd planned this whole evening for us.  I was going to get some really elegant food, a nice bottle of wine and sneak away to the park for a romantic dinner.

Then I discovered that all the bloody stores in Antwerp close on Sundays and that put a real damper on my evening.

But, as I roamed the neighborhoods searching in vain for a single grocery store that was open, I happened upon something truly amazing.  One of the churches I wanted to visit--one that had been closed last time I walked by--was open.  And not only was it open, there was going to be a concert given by a famous organist.  And it started in five minutes.

Serendipitous?  You bet your sweet patootie!

But wait, it gets better.  I decided to take advantage of the moment (verb action here) and paid my money to go inside.  That's when I was told that I didn't have to sit and listen to the concert, I could explore the church as I did so, which for me is like a ticket to heaven.  The church happened to be St. James', which I discovered is where Peter Paul Rubens is buried.  
As his home kerk (church) it has quite a few of his paintings, so I spent the next hour listening to beautiful organ music while I indulged in my passion for the arts.

All because I couldn't find a grocery store.

There is a quote by Peter McWilliams that I do agree with...

"In reality, serendipity accounts for one percent of the blessings we receive in life, work and love. The other 99 percent is due to our efforts."

In a way, he's right.  If I hadn't kept looking for a grocery store...if I hadn't put the effort into making my sweet baboo's Father's Day a special one, I would never have been able to experience this wonderful event.  But I believe God puts special gifts in front of us all the time.  And it's up to us if we want to unwrap them.

As for my gift, it just kept getting better...

After the concert, I met Mark, one of the volunteers that put the musical program together.  He had answered a couple questions for me and given me a short tour of one of the many side rooms of the church where a couple of interesting paintings were tucked away.  As we talked at the reception (did I mention wine, cheese and snacks were offered afterwards) we discovered a matching interest in art, music and travel.  

And after we got to know each other, he offered to take Jonathon and myself on a behind the scenes tour of one of the other Cathedrals here in town.  Where there is art very few tourists get to see.

All because I chose to take advantage of a serendipitous moment.  How awesome is that???

So keep your eyes open.  You have to train yourself to see serendipity when it passes your way.  Sometimes it's subtle, sometimes it hits you like a 2x4 to the head, but the art of making happy discoveries is like any other talent.  

You have to practice to be good at it.

Have a serendipitous event that changed your life?  A quick moment in time you didn't expect but will never forget?  Share it in the comments below.  I'd love to hear what you think!

Until Friday,

CJ England
Follow Your Dreams


M. S. Spencer said...

Lovely post--just the word "serendipitous" makes you feel good. Once I tried to take my daughter to a special Vermeer exhibit (in DC) but the line went around several buildings, so we tried the Library of Congress (where I used to work)--I wanted to show her the grand Reading Room. They said we couldn't come in because we weren't a "school group." Huh? So, we walked down to the Supreme Court (DC really is a cool town). I guess everyone was at the Vermeer exhibit, for Emma & I were the only ones who wanted a tour--the docent took us everywhere--even behind the curtain where the judges relax before Court. It was fabulous--& we probably never would have done it otherwise. M. S. Spencer

Ray said...

I love the post. The church is beautiful.

I live by serendipity and synchronicity. When we lived in New Bern, NC in the historic district we found so many genuine antiques and Collectables in small shops at really cheap prices because the shop owners did not know they were a treasure chest. In one the proprietor tried to show us the usual junk. Once she saw us only looking at the good stuff we bought nearly everything she showed us. She still didn't mark up prices because she had no idea what was worth. In another store my son found a beautiful chair.

I walked down an alley in Corfu just going for a walk when I found a locals restaurant that had better food than any other place on the main streets. I went back a few years later and it became my favorite haunt at lunch time.

Now serendipity. The day Mount Saint Helens blew its top I was in 29 Palms Marine Corps Base providing medical coverage fo an exercise. One day I was listening to the radio and reading a novel about a volcano in Iceland. As that volcano erupted Saint Helens became a part of history. T.J. MacGregor wrote a book called Category Five about a hurricane wiping out one of the Florida Keys. I bought the book, but didn't read it for months because shortly after I bought it Katrina destroyed New Orleans. Trish hs been my favorite author since 1986 so I even read the sequel. Such coincidence has happened over and over.

The latest serendipity took place yesterday morning when I had to take Gabriel to work. I have a temporary tag so I can't get a base sticker. I went to get a pass. The line was too long and they would not let me in for a visitors pass so I drove off hoping to get him there someway before he was late. A taxi magically appeared. I asked the driver if his passenger would mind helping us out. He said OK so he got to work on time. He got one more night off before his ship left this morning. This time we went at 2:00 AM. You don't need a visitors pass when the office is closed.

CJ England said...

That has happened to me as well, msspencer. Sometimes you find better things available when the first plan DOESN'T come together. LOL

CJ England said...

Thanks, Ray. I took almost 300 pictures. I was obsessed it was so beautiful

Serendipity is a wonderful thing when you let it happen. Like you did with Gabriel. It works.

Lola-Tuesday said...

wow, me stumbling upon your post was a bit of a 'serendipity' moment i think... i had just finished righting a post, going on a bit of a rant really about how i just want to travel and pack a bag but for some reason i havent, and i was viewing my blog trying to look at it and clicked 'next blog' and low and behold, your serendipity one popped up... and also, i walked a pilgrimage from one side of spain to the other for a saint, called St. James. also bizzarre as i've been talking about this pilgrimage alot recently... But just wanted to say... you're post touched me and made me smile.. x

CJ England said...

They talked about the church being a stop on that pilgrimage walk, Lola. I'd never heard of that particular walk until that day. And now you. Small world, isn't it.