It is funny who you will meet in unusual places. There I am coming out of the Chicago Ohare airport. Tomorrow I shall officiate at the funeral of a beloved friend from Sacramento. The family has kindly provided me a cab to take me to the hotel. Phil, the cab driver, is a friendly and articulate man. He knows I am a rabbi and is respectful. We begin a conversation heading through the Dan Ryan on a cold but clear Chicago winter night.
It turns out Phil has been driving cabs for 38 years. He gives me his analysis of the economy assuring me that the economy is doing great. According to Phil the companies are doing great but now they need to start hiring. The second issue is housing and Phil proceeds to give his analysis of the home foreclosure issue.
Now that we have finished those issues Phil, a nice Jewish guy, turns out to be a member of a local reform congregation. Of course I know his Rabbi quite well. We start talking about the congregation and prior clergy who have served his congregation. As we talk the cell phone rings and he is coordinating other cab pick-ups at the airport. This guy is a real entrepreneur wearing a pony tail and a beret.
I said to him, “What are the chances that I should have a reform Jewish cab driver pick me up at O’Hare airport?” Then he explained to me that someone, maybe a friend of the grieving family, asked their friend who works in a local congregation to call a cab driver to pick me up. I could not have asked for a better welcome to Chicago! Such connections we experience each day!
I am sure we could all tell plenty of stories just like this one. Is there something about the randomness of these kinds of encounters that is so intriguing? We like to think each day that we are in control of our lives. Then so often something happens whither it is a coincidence, a moment of insight or just a fortuitous meeting that practically teases us into thinking that there is a something behind these kinds of events. Jews will say something like this was an incident of B’shert or God ordained moment of divine intervention.
Trust me I understand that going down this road evokes the negative side of this issue such as when bad things happen to good people. I am not going further in this line of thinking on such a deep and sensitive philosophical issue. But there is something inside many of us that defies the logic of a philosopher. We are emotional and despite our rational mindset, humans tend to speculate about divine providence when peculiar things happen like what I experienced tonight. The things we sense as more than coincidence but cannot explain in a rational way make for the great stories in life.