Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Aug. 14, 2009

Chance leads to romance

My Great Uncle J. J. Richard was from the Mariadahl area. As a young man, he headed off to Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois to become a Lutheran minister. He went to Buxton, Iowa to serve the Swedes living in that coal-mining town and met his wife-to-be, my grandmother's sister Hannah.

They married and were posted in many distant places, but when the opportunity arose to return to Kansas, he took it, becoming the pastor of the Marion Hill Lutheran Church, a small rural congregation near White City.

The farm across from the church was for sale and J.J. wrote to my grandparents in Victor, Colorado about it. Grandpa Nels and Grandma Hulda had met at a church picnic in Victor. The wind that day caught Grandma's hat and Grandpa ran after it and retrieved it for her. His chivalrous act eventually led to their marriage in 1917. After hearing from J. J. about the farm for sale in Kansas, they bought it and moved there in 1925.

When Nels' daughter Edla, my mother, grew to adulthood and became a teacher, she sent out applications and eventually accepted a position in Burns, Kansas. My father was living on his folks' farm just west of town.

Whether one wants to call these events fate, acts of God or just chance, there is no denying that I would not be here without their occurrence. J. J. meeting Hannah, the farm across from his church coming up for sale and the opening of the teacher position in Burns were not things any of my family had control over.

In husband Art's family, the story is much the same. An available cheese factory near his Dad's hometown was bought by his mother's uncle. When that uncle's daughter was married, Art's Mom Donna was a wedding guest and hit it off with Frieda, a sister of the groom. Frieda had a job as a part-time telephone operator and one day Donna accompanied her to work. Art's Dad's sister was also an operator and when Tom showed up at the office looking for her, he met Donna.

Almost everyone I know can tell similar stories, stories of how unexpected events changed their lives forever. Art had intended to return to Wisconsin, but was checking out the job market in Kansas City. He became lost on the way to an interview and, on a whim, dropped in at a local college. One month later he was living in Kansas as a teacher.

In my case, I went to Costa Rica to work on a newspaper in 1978 and met my late husband Jerome. We had lived only 50 miles apart in Kansas all our lives yet didn't meet until we were in a foreign country far from home. Sister Gaila went to Bolivia to visit some friends 25 years ago and met husband-to-be Humberto. La Paz has been home ever since.

Friday evening I thought again about the role events such as these play in our lives. A year and a half ago, Janie Anthony had a job lined up teaching math in the Kansas City area. But a party brought her together with the previous vocal music teacher at Riley County High School. That teacher asked Janie if she could really set her first love, her love of music, aside, adding that she thought a position might soon be available at RCHS.

Later, after accepting that RCHS job, Janie rented a place in Manhattan from Cole Brokenicky. He had been a landlord for only a short time. When the tornado that went through town last summer spread the contents of a shared storage locker over much of the city, they began the recovery process together, which ultimately led to their wedding Friday night.

So every now and then when I hear someone say that you shouldn't sweat the little things, I'm inclined to disagree. We can certainly put ourselves in a position to take advantage of opportunities or to recover from bad events. But a great many of those big things in our lives come to us from somewhere other than inside ourselves.

Perhaps it is the little things we should sweat over. Janie is a talented person, but it was hours of work that allowed her to use her talent and landed her the job. It was Cole's persistence in courting her that caused her to stop and take notice of him.

So maybe the idea should be: don't sweat the big things for they aren't in your control. Sweat the small ones, sweat the details, for many ARE in our control and may one day allow us to take advantage of the big opportunities when they come our way, the opportunities that change our lives.

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