|Yep, that's my car.|
A lot of things had to come together to put me in that parking lot at that exact moment. In fact, it almost feels like it was fated to happen. First of all, it happened in the parking lot of my dentist office. I was taking my oldest in to get her cavities filled--if only we had been better at flossing. Second, her original appointment was scheduled for last week, but she got sick, so we had to reschedule. They offered me an earlier spot, but I asked for a later appointment (I’m not much of a morning person). And third, when I was getting ready, I almost took a shower, but I decided to skip it since it would make us late. Now I wish I had been five minutes late. It feels like the universe arranged all these events to put me in that parking lot at that time, so my poor car could be wrecked.
But why? Why would fate want my car to be wrecked? To teach the other driver to next time look before he backs up? Maybe my accident saved some poor kid on a bicycle from getting ran over. Or did I need to learn to be more assertive and honk earlier, or just grow from the experience of dealing with a car wreck?
I don’t think so. I think it just happened.
I’ve been driving for…hmmm, I don’t want to really calculate it, let’s just say for over fifteen years, and this was my first car accident. With the number of cars on the road and the amount of time I spend driving, it really is surprising that I haven’t been in an accident earlier. There probably have been plenty of times when I made small choices that kept me from getting in car accidents that I don’t even know about. I think the odds were stacked against me.
When I was young, my older brother got into a car accident. His friend was a new driver, and he was driving a little too fast and lost control of the car and hit a tree. Neither my brother nor his friend were wearing seat belts, but the friend was thrown from the car and died instantly and my brother stayed in and lived.
Physics kept my brother in the car, but small permutations in the direction and the speed and a hundred other little factors could have dramatically changed the outcome. My brother could’ve been the one lowered into a grave at the age of seventeen.
I remember family members believing that my brother surviving the crash was a miracle that God had spared him. They believed there was a reason he survived, that he had some great purpose. But what makes my brother more important than his friend? Why should my family get a miracle and his friend’s get a tragedy? I do believe in God, but having him choose to save one life and let another die doesn’t fit my idea of God.
|Picture taken by me. I love sunsets.|
I think this is why random acts of violence like the tragedy in Aurora disturb us so much. We understand crimes of passion, murder for inheritance, and even gang violence to some extent. And because we understand the motives, we feel we have some control in preventing these things from happening to us. But in these random shootings, there is no logic, there is no pattern, there is no way to protect ourselves and our families from these tragic events. All we can do is play the odds. And even when the odds are greatly stacked in our favor, it still leaves us feeling powerless.
And in that powerlessness, we need to feel some semblance of control. I think this is why we need stories.
We may not always see them, but stories are made up of patterns. Even when the story is not predictable, the pattern is. Everything that happens in a story has a reason, and eventually all threads tie together, building towards the climax. Everything in the story has a purpose. There is a sense of control in a story that we don’t have in real life, and I think that is what makes a story meaningful and satisfying. Seeing in the story that control that we wish we had in real life.
I think we need a place where everything makes sense; where even when bad things happen, we know lessons will be learned and hearts changed, and all that suffering will have a purpose. Stories give us that, and I think we need it.
Maybe our lives are nothing more than a series of random events strung together (or maybe it’s not, but only seems that way), but that isn’t necessarily bad. We are made from those random events. Our experiences, even the minor ones, shape us into who we are. How different would you be if even small moments in your life were changed? Just because there is no reason for these things to happen to us, it doesn’t mean that we can’t learn from them and grow and change. And maybe stories can inspire us to look for opportunities to grow and embrace that change, so we can find meaning in events that had none.
Or maybe I just hit my head a little too hard during my car accident. J