When I was young, a wonderful woman, Julia Paxton, told my youth group this beautiful story, and it has never left me. I believe the sentiments of the story are a wonderful way to begin the New Year.
Mrs. Paxton told us that she had a bedridden, elderly great aunt and a very, young niece who shared a birthday but lived a distance from her. She went to a local department store to pick out the perfect gifts for each relative and had the store wrap and send the gifts to each. She was pleased with what she had chosen and couldn’t wait for her great aunt and niece to receive the gifts. On the day of their birthdays, Mrs. Paxton answered a phone call from the department store who told her that they had mixed up the gifts and sent the one meant for her six-year-old niece to her elderly aunt and the one meant for her young niece to her great aunt. “Oh no,” Mrs. Paxton exclaimed. She thought that her loved ones would think that she was crazy.
She quickly called her niece, and her niece’s mother, Sally, answered. Before Mrs. Paxton could get a word in, Sally said, “Julia, how did you know that Sarah would love this beautiful shawl. She has pranced around with it all day, cuddled up with it last night, and hasn’t let it out of her sight. This shawl has become a super hero cape, a blanket, a tent, a table cloth, a princess gown—honestly, how did you ever think of it?” Mrs. Paxton didn’t know what to say but managed to reply, “I’m so happy she loves it.”
Mrs. Paxton hung up, called her great aunt, and her great aunt’s sitter answered. Again, before Mrs. Paxton could explain her mistake, her aunt’s sitter eagerly said, “Julia, the gift you chose for Helena is perfect! She has cuddled with this beautiful, stuffed kitty cat all day and night. She pets it as if it’s real, and she has fallen in love with it. I haven’t seen her this happy in months. What a wonderful companion this stuffed animal has become. Honestly, how did you ever think of it?”
After Mrs. Paxton hung up the phone, she couldn’t believe how marvelous this mistake was. “Life works in mysterious ways,” she thought.
When I was directing my students in New Orleans, I spent hours blocking the script. I would tell the actors when to enter a room, where to go, when to exit, etc. Most times the actors did what their blocking notes said, but occasionally, during rehearsal, someone would mess up the movement. And often times these mistakes would offer more to the blocking than what I could imagine. I called these events “Happy Accidents.” I would tell the student who flubbed up, “Keep that mistake; I love it! That was a great ‘Happy Accident.’”
Sometimes when life throws us a curve, that curve will lead us into a direction that is rich in blessings. As the great Yogi Berra said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!”
I’m hoping that 2016 is full of “Happy Accidents” for you!
Susan Chenet, Director