Serendipity – In a Train Station

I could feel him behind me.  He and I obviously didn’t have the same idea of  ‘personal space.’  As he got even closer, I wondered if this short, tanned, elderly Italian man was trying to cut in front of me?  I stood my ground in line for the automatic ticket machine.  He shifted behind me, looking over my shoulder to the woman in front of me, watching as she typed her selections into the machine.  He looked to the left at the man making his choices on the next machine.  He looked around the station, nervously shifting his weight, still too close.

The woman in front of me finished her transaction, gathered her ticket, and walked off.  I approached the machine and was thrilled to see the British flag indicating the machine spoke my language.  The man shifted behind me.  Was he actually looking over my shoulder?  I typed in Florence as my destination.

“Firenze? (Florence?)” he asked.  This was followed by a fluster of Italian while the man pointed from the paper in his hand to my screen to the trains.  All I understood was that there was a train in three minutes and he wanted me to be on it.  I looked at his ticket.  The destination?  Padova.  I had no idea where that was. 

“Non capisco italiano (I don’t understand Italian),” I told him.  He continued on anyway.  “Parla inglese? (Do you speak English?)” I asked.  Obviously not.  He finally pointed to a ticket agent and waved his hand for me to follow him.

In rapid-fire Italian he explained his dilemma to the bi-lingual woman.  She then explained it to me: His ticket was for a train leaving in a few minutes.  He bought it discounted on-line but needs to take a later train.  He can’t get a refund so he’s trying to sell it to me.  Florence -my destination- is on the way to Padova.  She told me the ticket to Florence is normally 45 Euros and I could work out with him whatever I wanted. 

I handed over 40 Euros and the man escorted me to my train saying over and over again, “Grazie, grazie.” (Thank you.)

With that, I was on my way to Florence. Or so I thought.   

I stowed my backpack and secured my seat.  I had no reservation for a place to stay in Florence.  I had followed my intuition and not booked anything for my first night in Italy.  This alarmed me only the day before I left.  But the feeling passed.  Now I knew why.  I was due to meet my sister in Venice the next day.  My rough plan had been to stop in Florence, spend the night, and hop a train the next day to Venice.  In my hands was a ticket all the way to Padova – a mere half-hour from Venice.   My five Euro savings increased to 18.  I took the train all the way to Padova, found myself a place to stay, and the next day continued on. 

 

Another Serendipity Story

Not a hair was out of place.  Her skin was flawless.  On her face was just the right amount of makeup to accentuate her already impeccable visage.  Her suit, her shoes – she was everything I pictured a corporate America consultant to be.  Next to her, I looked like the newbie I was.  But she didn’t make me feel that way.  The first accented words she spoke (she was from Grenada) made me laugh and put me at ease.  I would come to hear her infectious laugh plenty over our next year working together, and it lifted my spirits in that dreary job plenty of times.

Over the kitchen table at her grand Victorian vacation home, we talked about our dreams.  Hers was to open a clothing boutique in Brooklyn.  Years later, she was doing just that.  We kept in touch, but it’d been years since last we spoke.

Two weeks ago, our paths crossed again – in a way I never would have imagined.

I had two thousand more frequent flyer miles to collect before I’d have enough for my trip to Spain.  I had a plan for getting those miles.  It was complicated, but in two weeks I’d be able to book my flight to Spain.  So I announced the following on Facebook: the countdown begins: Two weeks from today I’ll have enough Frequent Flyer miles to book my flights for the Camino. Let’s hope Delta still has openings on the flights I need! 🙂

Two hours later, my old friend responded: How are you Rebecca? Am I allowed to transfer some of my miles to you? I will happily do so and live vicariously through you!

Really? I literally jumped out of my seat and started jumping around the living room.  Then, I calmed myself down and looked at my frequent flyer account again.  Oh dear.  It wasn’t 2000 miles that I needed.  It was 12,000.  I called her anyway.  As a former traveling consultant, 12,000 miles was no problem for her.  Not only that: she also offered to pay the fee associated with the transaction.  She explained, “A while back you came down to my house to help me get organized.  This is my way of paying you back.”  Tears filled my eyes.  “You have no idea how much this means to me!” I said.

An hour after we hung up, she e-mailed me to say she had completed the transaction.  I would have my miles in 24 hours.  The next day, I booked my flights.

But it wasn’t just this friend who helped me get miles.  Thanks to travelhacking.com, I learned which credit cards give you the best sign-on bonuses: thousands of miles just for opening a new card.  But some gave me thousands more if I charged $4000 in 4 months.  I don’t spend that kind of money so the call went out to my family.  My sister’s Lasik surgery?  Put it on my card!  Appliances for another sister’s new house?  Put them on my card!  New equipment for Dad’s business?  Here’s my card number!

So to all those who helped me get the frequent flyer miles I needed to get to Spain, thank you, thank you, thank you!

Seek and Ye Shall Find

“Do you have a hat yet?” she asked.

“No, but that’s on my list of things I want to bring.”

“I have one if you want to borrow it – a hat just for hiking.  And the best thing about it?”  She cupped her hands like she was holding a balloon, then brought them closer together.  “You can squish it up and put it in your bag.”

This seems to happen to me nearly every day.  Things, people, opportunities come to me.  They come to you, too,  if you start looking out for them – and believe that they exist.

The hat?  That was my friend Elizabeth Anne who offered it.  Remember the hike I wrote about yesterday?  Well, did you wonder how I got from the end of my hike back to my car?  Elizabeth Anne.  She and a couple friends from my writing group just so happened to be taking a tour at Val-kill that day.  They invited me to join them.  I declined but said, “Hey – if I walk over there, would you mind bringing me back to my car after you’re done with your tour?’  They didn’t mind at all.

They picked me up and Madeline said, “I’ve got a lot of food at my house – leftovers from yesterday.  Would you all like to come back and eat some of it?”  Well yes.  After walking nearly 8 miles, I’d love to!  And also have the opportunity to spend more time with these lovely folks?  My how I’m blessed!

I’m not usually one to quote the Bible.  Nothing wrong with doing so, it’s just not something I find myself doing very often.  But there’s some good stuff in there.

What this all brings to mind is Matthew 7:7 which says something along the lines of, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  Those words always appear in my head in a song I sang a lot when I used to go to church.  It’s a lovely tune by Karen Laffery.

“You get what you put out there,” people have said to me lately when I tell them of all my serendipitous moments.  “The universe sends you what you need.”  Indeed it does.  Open your heart to it.  See what comes to you.  I’d love to hear about it:)

 

When The Time Is Right…

About this time last year, my then-two-year-old niece was the recipient of what I consider one of my best crocheted pieces yet: an adorable Seashells and Posies dress.  I started and then re-started this dress at least three times before I finally got it right, but it was worth it.  It’s the cutest thing ever, and Ava loves it.  I am thrilled every time my sister chooses to dress my niece in it.

Ava wore the dress for her little sister, Isabella’s, christening last month.  My sister considered having her wear it for Easter this year.  When my mother asked what Isabella would wear, my sister said, “I was kind of thinking I want them to wear the same dresses this year.”  Was this Liz’s way of asking if I’d make the same dress for my other niece?  I remembered back, not so fondly, to the days Liz would call me “Granny” as I sat and crocheted.  I never thought I’d see the day when she’d actually dress her kids in clothes I made for them, let alone imply that she might want me to make more.  But God has a funny way of messing with us.  My sister actually likes the things I make her kids.  And tells me so.  Which stills my heart each time I hear it.

So as I saw it, the challenge was on: either I make Isabella a dress just like Ava’s or they wear store-bought dresses for Easter.  “Do you think you can finish it by Easter?” Liz asked.  Um, I really have no idea.  It took me a month to make the last one.  And three false starts….

Then I started thinking about a couple other projects in my head that I’d yet to start.  A baby blanket and a wedding blanket- both of which need to be done in the next couple months.  Minor glitch: I’m going to be out of the country for the majority of the next couple months.  So all these things need to be made….really soon.

So what happens?  I get sick.  Not just a few days.  I’m down for a whole week.  It’s the kind of cold where I don’t have energy to do much of anything but sit on the couch.  When I get sick, it’s God’s way of saying, “Okay – time for you to slow down.  Here.  Try this.”

His timing (as usual) couldn’t have been more perfect.  Well, there’s never a good time to get sick.  But some times are better than others.  I happened to be sent this lovely little illness not while on the road, not while in another country, but while in a room upstairs in my parent’s house.  The yarn for all three projects had just come in (minus one skein that my youngest sister Meg hunted down for me).  And though I had no energy to leave the house for a week, I DID have enough energy to crochet.

I am thrilled to report that I left the house today – for the first time in a week.  I’m finally feeling better.  Isabella’s dress?  Just needs buttons sewed on the back and it will be finished.  Baby blanket? Done.  Wedding blanket?  Well, here’s hoping….

Isabella's Dress

Serendipity

“I forgot a bag again,” I thought this morning as I set off on my morning walk.  The beer can glistening in the morning sun reminded me that I wanted to bring a bag on my walk to collect the cans I see along the way.  I counted twenty the other day.

By the time I got to the Ledford Chapel boat ramp (my halfway point), I decided I could at least pick up two cans and carry them back to the house.  So I grabbed the Bud Light Lime can (really?  Who drinks beer mixed with lime juice??), turned it over to dump the remaining beer out, then walked down to the lake to rinse it.  On my way, I picked up another can and rinsed that one out, too.

As I started my walk back, I noticed a woman come down her driveway with two dogs in tow.  She turned onto the road and headed the same direction I was going.  By the time I got to her driveway, a man was coming down with another dog.  We greeted each other and he said, “Thanks for picking up those cans.”  I explained that I keep intending to bring a bag but can’t seem to remember.  “We forget, too.  So we bring them to staging areas along the way and pick them up later in our walk.”  I told him I’d been thinking of doing the same thing.

I made friends with his dog, then we chatted as we continued walking together.

A scene from my morning walk

We caught up to his wife and she and I continued on while he stayed back with the slower dog.

“Do you live around here?” she asked.

“I’m living temporarily on Chatuge Lane,” I said. “But I walk this road every day since I’m getting ready to walk the Camino.”

“Oh!  I’ve heard about that!” she said.  We talked about my pedometer, my plans, where I’d be staying, what I’d bring.

“No more than twelve pounds,” I said.

“That can be a lot of weight after a while,” she said.

“Well, that’s my max.  The good news is I don’t have to bring a tent of anything like that because there are places to stay along the way.  But I might bring a sleeping mat in case I get to a hostel too late and have to sleep on the floor.”

“You know, I have a thin mat I was going to bring to the thrift store to donate today.  Would that be something you’d be interested in?”

“Oh, yes!” I said.  “That would be great!”

She offered to leave it on a mailbox along my route and I could pick it up tomorrow.  At the end of Ledford Chapel Road, we parted ways.  I thanked her again and commented on how I love the serendipity of life.  She agreed.

A View from the steps of Ledford Chapel