Reflections: When unexpected events in our lives help others

[2 minute read] (ESL learners – click on the bolded words to see explanations and notes. Try the exercise at the bottom after! πŸ™‚ )

I heard a podcast the other day which was talking about decision making.

It was a three-part series, with the first part delving into fate versus planning. In particular, the host Hilary talked about how “fate”, or things out of our control, can lead to some of the best things that happen to us.

We don’t have the option to decide at those moments β€” and honestly, even if we did, we probably never could have conceived or orchestrated all the things that would lead up to this incredible new friend, idea, or discovery.

For example, Hilary talked about how a chain of events β€” her getting sick, putting off an appointment, feeling tired after the appointment, video calling her husband to vent, and seeing her husband cuddling with a lost kitten the friends he was visiting had found β€” led to her and her husband adopting a cat.

She explained that she was definitely not a cat person β€” she even seemed to scorn the idea. Never in her dreams would she have begun to plan the adoption of a cat. But because of this seemingly random series of events, she has discovered an immense source of joy in her life.

This is a great example of how sometimes “fate” can know better than us what makes us happy, and why we should look at unplanned events or changes with an open mind.

And that got me thinking.

This example shows how things out of your control can turn out to be very beneficial for you.

But maybe these events that happen to you can also turn out to be very beneficial for someone else.

After all, we are all interconnected, and it would be pretty narrow-minded to assume that everything that happens to us is only about us. That inconvenience you experienced could somehow lead to another person meeting the love of their life, or preventing a disaster from happening, any number of other good things.

I was struck by this thought today as I visited my massage therapist. As he took my 10-session pass and wrote down today’s date on the card, I felt compelled to ask him, “Has it ever happened to you that someone lost their card?”

I wasn’t particularly curious about this, nor had I given it any thought earlier. But I felt this urge to ask that question.

He paused, frowning, and said, “No, I haven’t… I should probably figure out a system of tracking sessions in case someone does.” He quickly jotted something down in his agenda.

And then a thought occurred to me. Was this possibly a form of intuition? Could this question perhaps save a client of his great inconvenience in the near future, or help him prevent a minor conflict with someone?

I say this without any conceit β€” I don’t think I’m particularly “gifted,” or that everything I do is special. In fact, that’s the whole point β€” if this is true, it would have nothing at all to do with me.

Obviously, I can’t say for sure whether or not this is the case. But if nothing else, it could be a way to look at inconveniences in life that brings us greater peace.

Have you ever had a similar experience, where a random event turned out to be very useful to you or someone else? I’d love to hear your experience in the comments below!

ESL Notes (11 words / expressions)

Definitions written with reference to Cambridge Dictionary

Delve into: to discover more information about something. (Back to the text)

Conceive: to think of, to come up with, to invent. (Back to the text)

Orchestrate: to arrange something carefully to get a particular result. (Back to the text)

Put off: to postpone or delay something. (Back to the text)

Scorn: to think something is silly, stupid, or has no value. (Back to the text)

Would she have: This sentence structure may seem a little strange, because it’s an example of inversion. Certain words expressing limitation or negativity, including the word “never”, trigger an inversion. This means we place the verb in front of the subject. I could say “She never would have been able to plan that herself.” But if I put the negative word “never” at the beginning of the sentence, now we have to switch the order of the subject “she” and the verb “would have” into question-word order. This is a complex and advanced concept, so don’t worry if it seems confusing right now. If you’d like to read more, here is a useful blog article explaining it in more detail. (Back to the text)

Turn out to be: “turn out” is a very common and very useful phrasal verb. It describes an unexpected result or discovery. For example, I got invited to a party, and I thought it would be a big party with at least 50 people. But it turned out to be a very small get-together with just 5 people. (Back to the text)

Struck: if you are “struck” by an idea/thought, the idea/thought comes to you, and it usually means the idea/thought is impactful. (Back to the text)

Urge: a strong desire or wish. (Back to the text)

Jot something down: to write something down quickly, usually so that you can remember it later. (Back to the text)

Conceit: being too proud of yourself; arrogance. (Back to the text)


Want to start using these words and make sure you don’t forget them? Try this exercise! Think about these questions (discuss them with someone) or write down your answers, using the word or expression in your discussion or answer.

  • What’s a topic you would like to delve into, if you had more time?
  • What’s your favorite book or movie? Do you know how the storyline was conceived?
  • Do you think that any celebrity scandals were orchestrated on purpose in order to get more attention and popularity?
  • What’s a chore you don’t like doing and often put off?
  • What kind of people do you scorn?
  • What’s an event that happened in your life that was really unexpected or surprising for you? Describe it using the inversion “Never would I have imagined that…”.
  • Did you ever go to an event, or a restaurant, hotel, movie, etc. thinking that it would be boring or not very good, but it turned out to be a really fun time?
  • Talk about a good idea or an insight that came to you. Explain what it is and use “it struck me that…” .
  • What is an activity you absolutely love to do? When do you feel the urge to do it?
  • Where do you normally jot down things you want to make sure you don’t forget?
  • Can you think of anyone who is extremely successful and well-known, yet not conceited?

Feel free to try writing some more sentences, or a text, of your own to practice some more.

Thank you for reading! These ESL notes, links and exercises each take several hours to make, so if you found this useful, the kindest thing you can do is to like the post, leave a comment, or share with anyone who needs it. Have questions about any other words? Leave a comment and I’ll be happy to reply!

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