“Random” has become a prominent word in my generation’s jargon. Running into a friend you have not seen since you were 5 in the middle of the street. Or finding out that one of your new friends already knows someone in your family.
All of these situations are normally described as “random”. But I like to think that every randomness, every encounter happens for a reason and can lead to something great.
This was proved to me this New Years when I received the following text:
“Hey Penina, I just wanted to say all the best for 2016. This might come as a surprise to you… But thanks to you (and the joy and spontaneity of life and maybe a divine miracle too), my life has changed in the most amazing way,” with a picture of an ultrasound.
Let’s back track to October 2015 when I was flying from Paris to Tel Aviv. I had just spent a week in Paris on my way back to Israel from America. I was at home in D.C. for the holidays and was excited to be heading back to Israel to start my second year at IDC Herzliya. However, I was exhausted after a week of sightseeing, wine drinking, baguette eating and jet lag.
All I wanted to do was read my book, sleep and not converse with anyone around me. I was in one of those moods of complete and utter fatigue, where my body and mind could not tell if it was morning or night. So when a young blonde woman sat next to me, I had no interest in making forced conversation and small talk.
About an hour into the flight, after too much turbulence and too many loud arsim (equivalent of douche bags in Hebrew slang), I gave up on sleeping. I looked over at what the woman next to me was reading and saw it was a sight seeing book about Israel in English. I decided to make conversation and we hit it off really well.
She was a Christian from England in her 30s and was traveling to Israel for the first time. As an anglophile, of course I had to spend the rest of the flight talking to her and impress her with my knowledge of English monarchs (I happened to be reading a book about Henry VIII at the time).
The conversation went from places for me to go in future trips to England, to literature, and tourist attractions for her to visit in Israel. In the four hour flight we covered a lot of topics, and towards the end she asked me for suggestions of places to go out to in Tel Aviv.
I suggested a bar that I enjoyed in the center of the city and wrote down the name for her. There was no way for either of us to know that this one little suggestion would be a huge life altering recommendation, that would in itself create a life.
As we got off the plane we exchanged numbers, thinking that the only impact we would have on each other’s lives would be a place to stay or someone to meet up with when we travelled.
So fast forward to New Years when I received that text. I had not spoken to her for months. There was no way that I expected a little suggestion that I gave her would have such a large effect on her life. Her text concluded with:
”It all started in that bar in Tel Aviv…So thank you from the bottom of my heart. Never underestimate the impact you can have on the life of a person you sit next to on an aeroplane.”
If I had succumbed to my exhaustion and slept this life would not have been created. If I had read my book the whole flight, this new being would not exist. If I was placed a mere row closer to the front, this creation would not have occurred.
As I did more research on the “randomness” of life, I found the following quote from 2nd Century scholar Ben Azai in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) 4:3
“Do not disparage anyone, and do not shun any thing. For you have no man who does not have his hour, and you have no thing that does not have its place.”
הוא היה אומר, אל תהי בז לכל אדם, ואל תהי מפליג לכל דבר, שאין לך אדם שאין לו שעה ואין לך דבר שאין לו מקום
Nothing in life, according to Azai and my airplane experience, is truly random. Everything happens for a reason and each little action can have a larger repercussion.
From the day that I learned I had helped to create a life, I have learned to carry a sense of responsibility and care for every action I take, and word that I utter.
As the woman from England said, you can never underestimate the impact you have on someone else and on the world.