Scrap Metal on the Intersection
When people say or hear “everything happens for a reason,” they’re saying or interpreting it in a way that makes sense to them and how they live their lives. Some people love and completely identify with it, though maybe in a different way than I do. Some are indifferent to the phrase in general. Some people think it’s complete, ridiculous, bullshit.
If you’re facing me and see my right arm, it’s the most legible statement of the bunch. Of all of the statements on my arm, it’s the most crucial to my ability to navigate the world. As someone who likes to think they have some sort of control over things, it’s also the statement that I need to be reminded of most frequently. It's a challenging message to accept when we have to face life's challenges. Like the one we faced at around 6:30 on Saturday night.
After a great day having breakfast and lunch with friends in Portsmouth, NH, Chantelle and I decided to swing by an event that was happening in Providence, RI and then grab dinner and head home. It's not uncommon for us to cover a few states on a day trip, which only sounds ridiculous to those of you who do not live in New England.
To make a long story short, we were sideswiped by another vehicle on the two-lane exit ramp as we got off the exit in Providence. The details of the actual accident don’t matter. What matters is that neither driver or any passengers were left with a single scratch. The young man who was operating the other vehicle – we’ll call him “Scion” – was upset at first but, after he lit a cigarette and took a moment, he was very kind. He shared with me that he was in another accident nearby two weeks ago and that he had just purchased a part for his car on eBay for $3. He was on his way home and was just blocks from his apartment. As we stood on the side of the ramp, chatting and waiting for the state police officer to arrive, he looked down at my arm and said, “that’s so true!”
99% of the time, my right arm is out for the world to see. Even after a car accident. Even if I died because of that car accident. Yes, I thought of that before I had it inked on my body forever. The only time I intentionally hide my right arm is when I go to funerals* because I don’t think it’s a message that people need to face in that moment.
I realize that “Scion” could have become enraged by my tattoo. He could have, in that moment, said, “what the hell would ever be a reason for getting into a car accident?” But he didn’t. He got it. When it came time for us to shake hands and leave the scene, he said he was glad nobody was hurt and offered me, “peace and love.”
There’s never a good time for something bad to happen. Nobody in their right mind would ever say, “eh, it’d be okay to get in a car accident today.” That’s just not how life works. We always plan and hope and wish for the good stuff, but we have to appreciate both sides of the coin because without one, the other is meaningless.
I’m upset that we were in a car accident and I realize I may never know the reason. Perhaps we would have been injured at the event in Providence or in a worse accident on the way home. Perhaps if “Scion” had been on time, he would have fallen down the stairs of his apartment building. Perhaps he would have stopped at a gas station and purchased a winning lotto ticket. Maybe our accident slowed traffic so that another accident didn’t happen. Maybe “Scion” and I will meet again one day. One of Chantelle’s former colleagues drove by, saw us, and texted Chantelle when she reached her destination. Maybe she needed to reconnect with Chantelle for some reason. We may or may not ever know.
And we have to be okay with that.
What we know is that sometimes the universe acts in ways that are unpredictable. It’s how we prepare and how we respond that makes the difference.
There are millions of ways we can prepare ourselves for the tough times. I have a valid driver's license, a safe car, and car insurance. I make sure my loved ones know that I love them in case one of us leaves the universe unexpectedly. I wear a seat belt. I don't touch my phone while I'm driving. I'm grateful that I can do or have the tools I need to be prepared.
Getting in an accident is not in my control, but responding with kindness and compassion is. Nobody was injured. Cars are fixable or replaceable. If I ever see “Scion” at the grocery store, he’ll greet me with warmth. He may pay it forward. He may share our story and it may inspire someone else in a future interaction.
Releasing yourself from the need to know the answer to, "why" is terrifying... and freeing. We're not brought up in a world where, "I don't know" is viewed as a positive response to any question. I'm not saying not to ask questions. The tattoo that appears next to everything happens for a reason is question everything. What I'm saying is that you may not always have all of the answers to life's curve balls. Swing anyway, but it's okay to strike out.
SPECIAL UPDATE: I just got an email from our insurance rep: "The claimant is a very nice kid! He wanted me to let you know he said peace and love and he is also glad that no one was injured! He states that you were very kind. It’s nice to hear this, as not all accidents are as cohesive! :)"
I’ve shared it before and I’ll share it again…
Who knows what is good and what is bad?
An old farmer lost his best stallion one day and his neighbor came around to express his regrets, but the farmer just said, “Who knows what is good and what is bad.”
The next day the stallion returned bringing with him 3 wild mares. The neighbor rushed back to celebrate with the farmer, but the old farmer simply said, “Who knows what is good and what is bad.”
The following day, the farmer’s son fell from one of the wild mares while trying to break her in and broke his arm and injured his leg. The neighbor came by to check on the son and give his condolences, but the old farmer just said, “Who knows what is good and what is bad.”
The next day the army came to the farm to conscript the farmer’s son for the war, but found him invalid and left him with his father. The neighbor thought to himself, “Who knows what is good and what is bad.”