How One 'Small World' Connection Led to Another

Assistant editor Dan Hoffman became a part of a reader’s story.

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Posted in , Oct 3, 2016

How one "small world" connection led to another.

Working at Mysterious Ways, I get to read a lot of tales about comforting “small world”-type connections. But in my own life, this kind of thing rarely happens. After all, I scored low on the serendipity test I blogged about last spring.

That’s why it was a pleasant surprise when I read a story submission from Christine, about a special connection she and her mother shared with her mother’s speech pathologist. All three had ties to the same small town in Wisconsin.

When I looked at Christine’s submission form, my curiosity was immediately piqued. I knew that despite her Ohio address, she must have once lived in my hometown of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She had the right area code and her email had the words “Moravian pastor” in it—Bethlehem is home to Moravian College and a Moravian theological seminary.

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I gave her a call and learned that my intuition was correct. Christine had in fact lived there many years ago. It was even possible that we had crossed paths. Her “small world” story had led to yet another “small world” story involving me.

Christine had moved to Bethlehem to go to the seminary there in the mid ‘80s, just before I was born and when my sister was a baby. “The Bethlehem Steel blast furnaces were still going then,” she said, “and it was an eerie experience to drive over to the Southside and watch them.”

I told her that my grandfather had made his living working there as a machinist. She told me about the spot where she lived on Main Street, and how she lived in a women-only house for seminary students next to a men-only house—where her future husband lived. She even gave me a bit of history about the town that I didn’t know.

As Christine spoke, I conjured up images of Main Street and historic Bethlehem and tried to imagine what it was like for my parents, who were close in age to Christine and her husband at that time. I’ve rarely imagined my parents ever being young, and that gave me a peculiar sensation. It made me want to talk to them more about what their late twenties and early thirties were like, and what it was like being a new parent.

Christine and I ended our conversation by musing over our love of Pennsylvania diners. We both agreed they’re unlike diners anywhere else (New Jersey comes close). “We used to go to the all night places when we were in seminary,” Christine said. “Not Golden Gate, but the one past it….”

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“Izzy’s!” I interrupted. “I had some late nights there too when I was a senior and got my license to drive.”

I would be lying if I said I knew this connection I made with Christine had a special meaning. Perhaps it was just to lift my spirits on a slow Friday afternoon? Or to inspire me to learn more about my hometown and the lives my parents had there before I existed? Perhaps my call with Christine had a meaning for her.

All I can say for now is that our phone conversation was time well spent. Coincidences, after all, don’t always have to be full blown miracles—they can just be something small to give you pause and bring a smile to your face. And if you investigate them further, like I did, you might learn a thing or two. You can read Christine’s story in the “Encounters and Connections” section of our December/January issue, coming soon.

What “small world” encounters have you had recently? Share your stories with us.

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