Question: Dear Luise: My daughter recently used the word serendipity to describe something almost magical that happened to her. I’m not familiar with it and looked it up and read, “to make discoveries by accident and sagacity, of a thing not in quest of.” Then, of course, I had to look up sagacity, which is about self-help. So, I still don’t quite get it. Have you ever heard or used the word? If so, how? Thanks, Mia

Answer: Dear Mia: You do better than I do at looking things up. I sometimes hear a new word, think I understand its meaning, and then try to use it without seeking an official definition. That’s probably because I, also, often find the explanation hard to understand. That said, I recently had an experience I would credit as one chock full of serendipity, as I use the word.

We went to a craft fair put on in our community. Paintings, writings, woodwork, knitting, crocheting and quilts were displayed. A famous artist painted an oil seascape during the evening, which started out with a potluck. A gifted pianist also played for us. After we were all seated, published stories were read and the artist talked about his life, as he painted. He was using a photograph for inspiration and told us he had created another painting from it, using different lighting to portray a storm. He said the other painting had brought him $2,000. This time he was depicting it after a storm.

My husband and I are on a very limited budget. Still I was so taken by his work that I went up to his wife afterwards and said that I could pay $100. for it. She pretty much walked away. The same thing I would have done had I been in her shoes. Then I went to the painter and told him that if people were offering bids, I would like to bid $100. He said he knew nothing of any plan for bidding. We went home.

About a half an hour later, our program director called me and asked if I wanted the painting for $100. I nearly wept, and rushed back to pick it up. I told the artist I knew its value and was aware I was stealing it. He smiled and said that I had graciously covered his gas costs.

I would call this serendipity. I “discovered” a work of art that I fell in love with as it materialized before my eyes. I practiced “self-help” by making my wants known, and then I ended up bringing home a thing I was “not originally in quest of”.

I understand that the term was originally coined in connection with scientific discoveries, so I may be stretching its interpretation pretty thin. Blessings, Luise

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