I met my neighbor Nick on Wednesday. I was on my front porch reading the Westword and drinking a Sierra Nevada; he was on his front porch two houses down, spitting tobacco into a Great Divide Yeti bomber. I walked over and sat in one of the plastic lawn chairs on his porch and we talked for a while about how he was moving back to Philadelphia in May to go to PA school. Then Nick told me he was moving out of his house on Saturday because he hated our landlord and wanted to move in with his friend for his last two months in Denver.
“Well, I guess I’ll never see you again,” I said as I started walking back to my own porch. “But it was good to meet you.”
On Friday I saw my neighbor Nick at the Great Divide taproom.
“I thought I’d never see you again!” I greeted him. The girl he was with narrowed her eyes and managed to smile and purse her lips at the same time. Nick introduced me as his neighbor, but only for the next twenty-four hours. I laughed and ordered the Yeti.
Later, when I got hungry, Nick took me outside to the food truck where he used to work. While I waited for them to make my pizza, we talked with Nick’s friend from the food truck, Ryan. Ryan studies math, specifically probability and chance and those sorts of things that come in handy while gambling and when you just need to know the odds of picking out a blue marble as opposed to a red one.
“So you want to sell insurance?” I teased.
“No, actually, but fifty-two percent of actuaries do go into insurance.”
It wasn’t until I started writing that in my quote book that he realized what he had said was funny.
“I study math because…I’m fascinated by coincidence.”
“I love you,” I said.
Ryan was quiet for a few seconds, and I became nervous. Then he looked down at me with a little half-smile and asked, “Can we hug?”
I saw the ad for AfterHours in the Westword. I was intrigued by what this
church group does: feed the homeless every day in the park by my house and meet in bars at night to deliver a sermon or discuss religion. On Saturday I went to the park to investigate.
I hung back from the crowd, skeptically eyeing the scene. Volunteers handed out sandwiches, water, and soap. Jerry, the
pastor “chief love mongor” in a leather jacket, was giving communion to those who wanted to receive it. The boxes of lunches and hygiene items were emptied in minutes as the long line of men and women passed by. An old man came through the line in a trucker’s hat with pieces of paper pinned to it that read “Liars for Jesus” and “Religion is for the Infantile.” He didn’t take communion.
Others refused to take communion as well. “Jerry!” they would say, leaning close to the pastor, “I’m not gonna take communion today…I’ve been drinking.” Their words slid into one another as they whispered their confessions.
“Alright,” Jerry would say. “We’re here everyday, same time, same place, so whenever you’re ready, we will be, too.”
One young man kept his distance from the volunteers but shouted to Jerry, “Hey, man, you got any lunches left?”
“Sorry, dude, we’re all out today but I have some bread and wine here!” Jerry responded.
“Naw, man,” said the boy. “I just want some peanut butter and jelly!”
As he was packing up his communion table, Jerry asked me about myself and we talked for a while about religion, family, and homelessness. Before I left, Jerry handed me his business card, which happened to be a beer coaster.
“Shoot me an e-mail and I’ll get you on the mailing list to let you know where we meet each week,” he said. As I walked back to my house, I turned the coaster over and read Jerry’s e-mail address.
I went back to the park on Sunday.
“I’d hoped you would be here,” Jerry said as I walked up to the little group gathered on the grass. “I bought socks so you could hand them out. You can be the sock girl.”
When all the socks were gone, a woman approached me. “What church do you go to?” she asked.
“None,” I said.
“I’m not religious.”
“You don’t believe in Jesus?” she asked, her head tilted to the side, squinting at me.
“I don’t know,” I said.
“You don’t know what? That he saves you? That he is the Son of God?”
“I don’t know,” I repeated.
The woman turned to the older couple next to me. “Is this your daughter?” she asked them, almost accusingly.
“No,” the man smiled, “but we’ll take her.”
The woman looked back at me, studying my face, appraising my apparent youth. “I see the presence of God all over you,” she said. Then she walked away.
That night I sent an e-mail to Jerry asking to be put on the mailing list for future gatherings. I got a response: “Mary from the park, so glad you decided to take a chance with us! :) I’ll get you on the list. See you soon. -Jerry”.
Sometime in the middle of the night, Gmail decided that Jerry and I were now e-mail friends and we were on a first-name-email-address basis. In my case, MaryDollins@gmail, I just became “Mary”. In Jerry’s case, GodDoesntSuck@gmail, he became simply “God.”
So I awoke to a line in my inbox that read, “To: Mary, From: God. ‘Mary from the park, so glad you decided to take a chance with us! :)'”
Ryan and I met up a few days ago and spent the night talking about all sorts of things, but eventually the conversation came back to coincidence. Ryan is interested in social experiments and wants to intentionally create or foster coincidences in the lives of others. I told him that I thought it was quite coincidental that without meeting my neighbor Nick, and without reuniting with Nick unexpectedly at Great Divide, I never would have met Ryan and would not be having this conversation about coincidences.
Later I rescinded that statement. It seems that according to the technical definition–“the occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection”–our meeting would not be considered a coincidence. Maybe it was just luck. Or maybe it was just gratitude for the way things happened. I asked Ryan if there might be another word for things that don’t happen at the same time but later there appears to be a connection.
“Well done,” he said. “That is the only thing I thought was lacking with the definition also. You were made for coincidence creation. I can see it.”
It seems that people are seeing all sorts of things about me these days.