Lately, there have been lots of stories of people blessed with opportunity using that newfound wealth to help others.
A Minnesota farmer gave most of his estate to his hometown, totaling about $3 million.
A person in Ohio paid off $8,800 in WalMart layway accounts anonymously.
Another “Secret Santa” in North Carolina made a similar move, paying off layway accounts there.
These types of things are great. When someone does this, they take something they have in abundance and use it to give a fresh opportunity to someone else.
As I’m sure most of you do, I’d like to think that many of the people who have been given this opportunity are going to take advantage of it. Instead of struggling to pay off that layaway bill, they can start hammering away at a credit card or maybe put some money away to pay for a future car repair. However, the reality is that some of the recipients of such serendipitous gifts will simply look for another way to get themselves into financial trouble.
This brings us back to the heart of the story.
Let’s say you were the recipient of such a boon. Thinking about it from a distance, you’re probably quite sure you would use that benefit for something worthwhile, like eliminating a little bit of debt or buffing up an emergency fund.
But would you do that? Would you be tempted to use that serendipity for something fun instead? Think about the little boons that life hands you all the time.
If you find a five dollar bill at the gas station (which I actually did a few days ago), what do you do with it? Do you pocket it and use it when you’re buying essential groceries, or do you take it inside and get yourself a Big Gulp and a slice of pizza?
If you find several dollars in change spread across your dirty jeans (which I did several days ago), do you do something fun with it or do you sock it away for something big?
I used to be very bad at this. I would spend “serendipity money” quite easily on whatever trivial thing I wanted at the moment.
Eventually, though, I began to realize that those little trivial things of the moment didn’t really make my life one little bit better.
So, instead, I started a “serendipity jar.” Whenever I find some money like that, whether it’s a quarter on the street, a $5 bill at the gas station, or $3.79 in change in my dirty jeans, it all goes in that jar.
When that jar is full, I take it to the bank and deposit it into my checking account, then go on with life as normal, except that my checking account has a couple hundred more dollars in it.
That extra hundred or two feels pretty good. It feels like freedom, and it often makes some problem in my life go away. It buys a new tire when one blows out or pays for a child’s costume for a dance recital without having to tap my actual emergency fund at all.
That, to me, is what serendipity is all about. Rather than providing a perk that’s forgotten in fifteen minutes, it smooths out what could be a worrisome bump in the road of life.
When serendipity finds you, don’t think of fulfilling whatever immediate desire you have. Instead, think of making your life better. Do something useful with it.