How a Kick on the Shin Changed the Course of History (or Thoughts on the The Timing of the Universe)




We tend to think that the course of our lives is defined by the big moments: births, deaths, graduations, marriages, jobs landed, job lost, purchasing homes, promotions, divorces and so on. Certainly, these are among the most significant moments a life can have. But if you look closely, the real magic is underneath, the stuff behind the scenes. A wedding day is a big day. But the magic of the universe happened years before when circumstances unfolded in such a way that allowed you to meet: maybe she bumped into your car in the parking lot, or you poked her with an umbrella by accident, or she spilled coffee on your tie, or you both reached for the same cabbage, at the same time, in the produce section one day. This is precisely where the universe does its best work. What happens in grocery store aisles, bus stops and bank line ups can be extremely potent.  It is most often in these kinds of places where the most powerful kinds of encounters and exchanges will happen.  If you sleepwalk through this stuff, you miss your chances to get the puzzle pieces right, to piece together your destiny. 

I am going to share an important insight: 

When we look at a life in reverse, any life, an amazing
thing happens. Things that seemed haphazard, or by
chance, suddenly do not seem so accidental.  Instead, a pattern emerges, you find a sort of composition with its own unique refrains and motifs.

I often tell this story to illustrate the point. One day, when she was perhaps nine or ten years old, my mother was walking down the sidewalk and being silly with a friend. Suddenly, they noticed a boy of about the same age in the near distance.  He appeared to be trying to fix his bicycle chain. As they drew closer, my mother’s friend says spontaneously, “I dare you to give him a kick on the shin and then let's run away really fast.”

Well, in one of those crazy coincidences, the ten year-old
girl who would one day be my mother kicks an unsuspecting ten year old boy on the shin. This boy would grow up to become my father.


mom's school photo


dad's school photo


Here is how it played out.  A few year pass, and the two of them are now in high school.  They recognize each other from the “kick on the shin” encounter years earlier. They become friendly, and before long, start dating.  They become high school sweethearts and eventually marry and have kids.  

I sometimes think about how different the universe would
be if one of them had slept in that morning by even five
minutes, thus throwing off the timing of the whole thing.
No passing on the sidewalk. No kick on the shin. No
“remember me” moment in high school. No dating. No
marriage. No me. No blog post. No you reading this post now.
And so on. Kind of boggles the mind. 

My parents celebrated many special occasions, but were it not for the amazing timing of the universe all those years ago, along with a broken bicycle chain and a kick on the shins, the world be a different place.

I will leave it to you to draw whatever lessons or conclusions you like from this, but let me share with you some of mine: 

1. Be receptive to the incidental encounters in your life. More often than not, the magic lurks here.

2.  The timing of the universe is an amazing thing. Those things which occur randomly or unexpectedly ultimately become part of the symphony of your life.  

3.  Sometimes what seems to be a setback - like a broken bicycle chain or even a kick on the shin - is really part of the staging for something even better.  Paulo Coehlo says, "wherever you stumble, there is your treasure."



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