Everyday coincidences are those that don’t exactly blow your mind. Such as when the toast pops up at the moment you were wondering if the toast was going to pop up. Or when your daughter asks you if you would take her shopping right at the moment when you were hoping she wouldn’t ask you.
Then, there are those situations where the chances are rare that they would happen but, still, not earth shattering. When you have two home runs in two consecutive games, and each one happened when your shoes were untied. Or the same telemarketer calls you on three different occasions when, each time, you were boiling eggs.
And then, there are the mothers of all coincidences. The ones that leave you shell-shocked and speechless. These are the ones that have you searching all over the vast landscapes of religion, the supernatural, and the meaning of life—looking for concrete answers. They are situations that lead you to believe that a higher power is at the helm. Suddenly there’s a lot of truth to the saying that God works in mysterious ways. But if you’re going to show proof of your existence, wouldn’t it be a lot easier if you just shook my hand? How about a postcard? A text? Why do you have to do it in such a bizarre fashion? Or is it you in the first place? Something is being communicated to you through the coincidence, but it’s far too difficult to decipher. So there you go—trying to explain the coincidence—bouncing back and forth between God and, well, God knows what.
For me, I had my mind blown on August 4, 2007.
Here we go again: I had lost my keys.
As a runner, I was ready to hop in the car and head to an area in town where I like to do my hill training. When I woke that morning, my legs felt strong, and the outside temperature was pleasant for a Texas summer. I had a small window of time to do the workout, as I had to return home to shower before heading to a meeting.
I made my way to the door leading into the garage. Next to the door was a little wall mount that had hooks for hanging keys. My spare set of car keys was there, but I noticed that my main set, that had a very important church key, was not. The key gave me access to a church gym in town where I coached my ten year-old daughter’s basketball team. The church secretary entrusted me with the key to the main door. Her unforgettable last words, “Have fun with basketball and, remember, don’t lose that key.”
Don’t lose that key. Don’t lose that key. I had lost that key.
There are two classifications of people who buy these key holders. There are those who actually hang their keys on them and always know where their keys are. Then there are the absentminded others, who buy the hooks for the purpose of hanging keys but, instead, end up using them to hold school backpacks, belts, dog leashes and, of course, misfit keys that neither fit any lock in the house nor do they start any vehicle. It would not be unusual for many of those items to remain on the hooks until the day you sell your house.
The frantic search began immediately as all I could think about was if I didn’t find this original set of keys it would mean no hill training. When a runner misses a much anticipated workout, they become sour, ugly people. Much like taking tools away from a carpenter, or depriving Kevin Hart of comedy.
High and low, far and wide I searched the house. My mood was swinging like a wrecking ball, threatening anything in its path. I reached a desperate situation whereby I said to my three kids, “Ten dollars to the first person who finds my keys.” No one budged. “Okay, what about fifteen?” A couple of raised eye brows, but no big stir. “Twenty?” I said, though I kept silent the fact that I didn’t specify dollars or cents. The troops began moving about, combing the area.
With the scheduled meeting an hour and half away, my window of time for running was narrowing. After twenty minutes, I called an end to the search as my running addiction overcame me. I grabbed the spare set of car keys from the wall hook, jumped in the car, and headed for the hills. As I drove, I mentally retraced my steps trying to recall when I last had the keys. Where did I put them? How would I explain the loss to the church?
I’m the worst having to admit I screwed up. I always want to create some kind of blame, because I hate to disappoint. You loan me a car, and I’ll tell you I’ll have it back tomorrow by noon. Well, noon rolls around and I’m racking my brain to come up with some explanation as to why the front axle is split in half. I wouldn’t dare admit that I drove it into the pit at the oil change service bay. So I attempt to blame it on how it hit a deer. You look me in the eyes and say, “You hit a deer? Can you please explain how only the front axle was damaged? And really, split in half by a deer?”
I want to blame the world for this lost key. I want to tell the church secretary my son threw it at a bird, and the bird caught it in its beak and flew away. I want to tell the crazy person lie: Excuse me ma’am, but I don’t remember any key. Before long, my fast-acting conscience drops a bucket load of guilt. The burden of this predicament rests on my shoulders. Perhaps a good run will clear my mind and help solve the key mystery.
The entire drive, I couldn’t shake it: Where are those keys?…Where are those keys?…WHERE. ARE. THOSE. KEYS!? A quarter mile away from my running destination, I turned onto the road that led me to my training hills. The church had trusted me! As I drove, I noticed there were a series of direction signs that indicated this was also a detour route for another road had been washed out due to recent heavy rains. There were three signs with bold direction arrows strategically placed to guide people along the detour. I thought nothing of these directions until I noticed the last sign that was located at a “Y” in the road. The sign was secured to an A-frame support by a large bolt that was pierced through its top.
Here everything shifted into slow motion. Super slow-mo. Like the folks dodging bullets in The Matrix. There, on that bolt, hung a black object—an object’s shape I was all too familiar with: the shape of my car’s security remote device. Like a turtle I stretched my neck forward, trying to visually absorb every inch of curiosity towards that hanging object. “No way!” I shouted. I spun the car in a U-turn and parked on a grassy shoulder. Out of the car, I made my way to the sign. Hanging on that bolt were, in fact, my keys and—save my life—the church key!
Everything quickly fell into place and began making sense. I had run in this area with my son ten days before. When I parked, I had hid the keys under the car. It turns out that after our workout, my son had gotten in the car first, and had started it with a spare valet car key that I keep in the driver’s side door. When I got in, I thought nothing of the fact that a spare key was in the ignition as opposed to the keys I had hidden. I absentmindedly drove away, leaving the keys in the grass.
Though there was an explanation for why the keys showed up that morning—that someone had found them and put them on the bolt, thinking that by chance the owner might be looking for them—I couldn’t help but wonder, Was there something else going on? This was more than just a coincidence. Coupled with hammering my brain about the whereabouts of my keys, and having taken a route at that same moment that led to them hanging on a bolt for me to see, I was completely speechless.
In the midst of the excitement and relief of that bizarre discovery, questions arose: What is this all about? I know it’s just a set of keys, but is this a God thing? Or is this just plain luck? Is it a little of both? Football players thank God for winning games. Survivors of airplane crashes thank God for life. What about the losers? Who do they get to thank? Oh, thank you God for allowing us to miss that last second field goal that would have clinched the championship. We look forward to your unfortunate blessing same time next year.
What about all those people who never found their keys? Or found them too late, only to miss a very important appointment? They’re not thanking anyone. At most they’re blaming someone for their problems or are kicking chairs and piles of dirty laundry. There’s nothing like having a bunch of inanimate objects around the house to beat up on when the going gets rough.
For whatever reason, one-in-a-million coincidences evoke immediate feelings of a higher power. Yet even if God is to be our go-to reason, that wasn’t what eventually consumed my mind. What struck me was how alive I felt. It was exactly that—living that feeling. How neat it was to experience such an odd and mysterious moment. I was speechless and giddy. The fact that I was adamant about going to those hills to run coupled with the fact that I knew I had to find those keys, resulted in a finding that was beyond the odds of luck. It was much like the feeling experienced by anyone who’s seen the Grand Canyon for the first time—mind blowing. Taking in the moment for all its worth was what mattered.
But now, eight years later, as I look back on that day, something else matters: who or what allowed for that moment, that incredible coincidence, that gift? To that, I have my certainty, and to Him I say, “Thanks.”
Copyright Ros Hill 2015