I’ve long been fascinated with the concept of choice and the impact it has on our lives.
When I look back on my timeline in the past six decades, I see a pattern evolving. Some of the events of my life seem serendipitous, some appear to be “beshert,” which is Yiddish for “meant to be.”
A new television show called “Ordinary Joe” is all about that.
I missed the first episode but was able to catch up on the storyline with the second one. The gist is that the title character Joe Kimbreau is a good guy whose life unfolds from a pivotal event when his police officer father is killed on September 11th.
As we join him, he is living in three alternate realities. In one he is a rock star, married to a woman with political aspirations, in another, he is a nurse in a hospital who is separated from his wife with whom he is raising a son, and in the third, he is a single police officer who followed in his father’s footsteps.
Each of these “lives” unfolds as they do based on who he decided to spend time with after graduating from college. It does take a bit of concentration to keep all of the characters straight and remember who is with who and how it happened. I wonder if each version of the man is aware of the others or if we as the viewers are the only ones who know that all three exist. It has the same feel as my favorite show, “This Is Us,” which will be back on the air for its sixth and final season in January. It has been my Tuesday night sob, and “Ordinary Joe” is my Monday night…not quite sure what yet. I had a few trickling tears but not full blown weeping.
As I am writing this, I am sitting in a hotel room in Washington, D.C. I drove down earlier today to have some chill time before the wedding I am officiating tomorrow morning.
After a few hours spent with my toddler grandson (my morning delight) as one of his caregivers, I hopped in the car and headed south for what I thought would be a three and a half hour leisurely drive, which turned into more than four with D.C. traffic and construction. I pulled into the parking lot and headed up to my room at a hotel overlooking the waterfront.
Once I settled in, I strolled along the wharf to find some place for dinner. The restaurants, which all had outdoor seating, required reservations, so I went to a food stand that had scrumptious Asian cuisine. I had a craving for something that I could eat with chopsticks and this fit the bill perfectly. Spicy cauliflower buns and chicken dumplings cleared my sinuses as I soaked up the waning sunlight from the early autumn day, enjoying the sounds of music and conversation and laughter that wafted through the air.
The man in the featured image is Marty (as in “Back to Future,” which he referenced when introducing himself) who serves s’mores with a smile. After the spicy food, I needed something to mellow the fire. I hadn’t indulged in this particular sweet treat in awhile, so I meandered over.
I told him a story about how when my mom was on hospice in 2010, we went on an imaginary trip to Hawaii. I asked her what we would do there. She said we would dance the hula, get lei’ed, and go to a luau. She told me that we wouldn’t have roast pork, since we are Jewish. Okay, a kosher luau. What would we have instead? She told me we would have s’mores. I said that I didn’t think they served s’mores at luaus, but I bet they served s’mores in Heaven. Her response was, “I hope so.”
As I took out my wallet to pay him, he smiled and said it was on the house since he liked the story. He handed me the components in a bag to assemble at the fire pit nearby. A big marshmallow, two Oreo cookies (instead of graham crackers and a chocolate bar), and a skewer to hover the confection over the flames. It was a delicate balance since I wanted it cooked just right without it burning to a crisp or falling into the dancing fire. I savored the sweetness and toasted my mother as I roasted the marshmallow. If you come down to The Wharf in D.C., visit S’mores and experience a taste of Heaven.
What does any of that have to do with choices? A whole bunch.
I am an ordained interfaith minister who has married more than 300 couples, because when my husband died in 1998, I took his place in the class at The New Seminary in NYC. I graduated in 1999 after completing two years worth of work in six months.
The couple I am marrying tomorrow introduced themselves to me via Facebook. When we “met” online, I felt like I had connected with kindred spirits.
I would not be in this hotel room had Michael not passed. I would not have enrolled in seminary had I not met him at a Ram Dass lecture in Philadelphia in 1986 and married him in 1987. I would perhaps not have become a journalist had we not founded Visions Magazine in 1988, since my degrees are in Psychology and Social Work (BA and MSW).
As a result of making that career choice, I interviewed His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 2008. I would likely not have had that opportunity without first meeting the friend who was the event producer when he came to Philadelphia to speak. I met my friend Greg at Pebble Hill, which is an interfaith community in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. I ended up there after meeting a man named Peter at the Philadelphia Folk Festival in 1984, who brought me to the church. I was living in South Jersey at the time and fell in love with the area and decided to put down roots, and here I remain.
Michael and I moved to South Florida in 1990 and while there, adopted our son Adam. We chose to purchase our first house in Homestead, which fell prey to winds and waters of Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Returning to Bucks County, he lived another six years. As a result of an act of nature that placed Adam in the position of growing up here instead of Florida, he was in the right place at the right time to meet his wife, Lauren. He had been playing in an adult soccer league and a mutual friend named Perry, who was a team member as well as Lauren’s co-worker, introduced them. If not for that bit of serendipity, my darling grandson Dean wouldn’t have been born.
Had Michael lived, I would not have been in a position to have met many others I hold dear. Some became lovers, others close friends. I treasure those connections infinitely. And so the long road led me to this very moment and for that I am beyond grateful.
“Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” ~ William Jennings Bryan