As I was straightening up my bedroom last night, I came across a few magazines that were months old, still in my nightstand drawer. One of them was an issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, a past issue, Oprah smiling at me from a brightly covered cover. I started thumbing through it to see if there were articles I wanted to keep, or if the recycling bin would get another addition.
I ended up pausing on a section called Chance Encounters-Do You Believe in Fate? and started reading. The small essays that followed had me transfixed, each telling a more beautiful story than the last. All of the essays touch on different types of fateful encounters, one is about meeting a soulmate, others about small, meaningful twists in life, that had an incredible impact.
I have always believed in fate, even though I have misread moments in my life, thinking they were fate, when perhaps I just wanted them to be. But there have been real, honest moments when something so unquestionably fated has happened to me that I get chills thinking about it even years after the fact.
Two of the essays in the magazine in particular touched me, and also gave me those same chills at the unbelievable moments of fate that led these writers to know that a circle had been completed, and they were exactly where they were supposed to be. It was fate.
On a summer day years ago, I was hitchhiking on I-95 through Maryland—you could do that back in 1975—after spending three months thumbing through South America. The beefy guy who pulled over to pick me up (they did that back then, too) wore red Pro-Keds. I remember this vividly because my eyes kept drifting to them. For the record, I had long hair and was wearing a llama-hair poncho and black canvas Chuck Taylors. The driver just happened to be going to Columbia, Maryland, not far from where I attended grad school. I was 23, majoring in sarcasm, minoring in theater. Offstage, I played everyone but me, whoever that was, holding myself in with a reserve that no girlfriend could breach. If I got too close to revealing any feelings, I'd interrupt myself in midthought and stammer to a stop. Talking in conundrums, hiding behind equivocation, I made myself untouchable.
I found a certain direction in my job driving a city bus in Columbia. Every afternoon I steered through the same suburban streets and ended up in the same suburban mall. My bus was often empty: In this new town everybody had a car. I drove alone and liked it. There was no need to perform, because I was totally anonymous.
One afternoon a girl got on outside the community playhouse. She was a high school senior with clear, dark eyes and an appealing tangle of black hair. She swung onto the bus with an easy grace. I'd been reeling off nonsense lines to myself from the play The Bald Soprano: "I prefer a bird in the bush to a sparrow in a barrow… The car goes very fast, but the cook beats batter better."
"What are you talking about?" she said. Her smile was crinkly; her eyes, knowing; her voice, sly and swooping.
"Rather a steak in a chalet than gristle in a castle."
"Is that your idea of a pickup line?"
I could tell immediately that she was my kind of girl: sharp, nervy, and, critically, postmodern. All she lacked was 25 cents. I paid her fare. By the time she got off the bus, I had her name (Maggie), her phone number, and a date. A quarter went a long way in those days.
A few days later, as I arrived at Maggie's house, I noticed a well-stuffed man in a well-stuffed chair. He was wearing red Pro-Keds. He was, of course, Maggie's father. Not all that long after, Maggie asked me if I wanted to get married. I said, "Great idea." While swilling a dollar bottle of champagne in plastic cups, we gleefully told Old Red Keds we were getting married and then hitching to Guatemala. He didn't share our glee. "Do you know the Mann Act?" he snapped. "That's the 1910 law that bans the interstate transport of females for 'immoral purposes.'"
"No," I deadpanned. "Could you hum a few bars?"
We got married anyway, on May 28, 1976, the day after Maggie's high school graduation. For years afterward, her three younger sisters would greet their dad when he got home by asking: "Daddy, did you pick us up a hitchhiker?"
Three decades and two beautiful daughters later, I haven't met anyone else I'd rather be around. Maggie still surprises me, still shakes me out of complacency, still makes me laugh. She's not sentimental; she sensible, decent, and much smarter than me. She showed me how to feel comfortable in my own skin, to embrace ordinary happiness. Which is pretty extraordinaryTightly Knit: An African Odyssey
By Katie Arnold-Ratliff
As a teenager, Jacqueline Novogratz donated a favorite sweater to charity. Eleven years later, a stunning coincidence in Rwanda illustrated how intertwined our lives on this planet have become.
*In 1976, a boy at Novogratz's high school cracks a joke about her breasts, highlighted by the tight sweater. Humiliated, she vows never to wear it again, and gives the sweater to Goodwill.
*Like many articles of donated clothing from the United States, the sweater most likely travels to Mombasa, Kenya, after it is fumigated, bound in a 100-pound bale, and sold to a secondhand clothing distributor who in turn sells to local citizens across Africa.
*Novogratz graduates from the University of Virginia in 1983 and lands a job with Chase Manhattan Bank, reviewing loans at banks in troubled economies. On a business trip to Brazil in 1985, she befriends Eduardo, a homeless boy in Rio de Janiero. But when she brings him to the hotel restaurant, the manager turns him away. Novogratz wonders, "What will it take to build a society where everyone has doors of opportunity?"
*Novogratz proposes that Chase implement a loan program for low-income families as well as struggling banks. Her bosses reject the plan, so she leaves to join a nonprofit in Africa that finances small businesses. In early 1987, she travels to Kigali, Rwanda, to help establish a microfinance enterprise for poor women.
*While jogging one afternoon, she spots a young boy on the road. He is wearing a familiar-looking sweater; it is made of blue wool, with zebras at the foot of a snowy mountain. She stops him, turns down his collar—and sees her name written on the tag. It's the sweater she donated 11 years earlier. The encounter convinces her that all of us are interconnected: "Our actions—and inaction—touch people every day across the globe, people we may never know and never meet."
*In 2001, her sense of purpose renewed, Novogratz founds the Acumen Fund, a nonprofit that encourages entrepreneurship as a means to combat global poverty. To date, the Acumen Fund has helped a company in India provide clean water to more than a quarter million rural residents; an agricultural products designer bring drip irrigation systems to 275,000 small farmers worldwide; and an African malaria bed-net manufacturer that employs more than 75,000 people produce 10 million lifesaving bed nets each year.
*Novogratz writes about her visits to the companies she's helped finance, posting entries on the fund's website (AcumenFund.org). The entries evolve into a book about her experiences, The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World, which will be published in March. She plans to donate a portion of the proceeds to the Acumen Fund. "Rather than seeing the world divided among different civilizations or classes," she writes in the prologue, "our collective future rests on embracing a vision of a single world in which we are all connected. We all play a role in the change we need to create."
Read more chance encounters here.
articles and photos courtesy of www.oprah.com