Last Saturday I spoke about teaching at a TEDx conference at The Country School in Madison, CT.
My talk was about the capacity of students and the importance of expecting more from them on a daily basis. As a part of the talk, I told the story of a former student named Jack Murphy who I had hired to be my classroom personal assistant. Throughout the school year, Jack strove to be my best personal assistant ever, constantly asking if there was more that he could do for me.
One day, after Jack had asked me one too many times if he could help, I said, "Fine, Jack. I have a broken lawn mower in my shed at home. The town dump won't take it, and my wife won't let me illegally dump it. It's been sitting there for three years. Get rid of that lawn mower, and I'll be impressed."
By the next day, Jack had found a person on CraigsList.com who refurbishes broken lawn mowers and had arranged for pick up at my home. I left the lawn mower at the bottom of my driveway, and a day later, it was gone.
And the guy paid me $50 for the broken machine.
Jack Murphy became the greatest personal assistant of all time.
On the way home from the TED Talk, I took a bend on a country road and saw three lawnmowers at the bottom of a driveway not unlike my own. They had red and white "For Sale" signs affixed to them. They looked old, not unlike the one Jack had sold for me.
I laughed. Less than an hour ago, I had been talking about a broken lawn mower at the bottom of my driveway. "That's quite a coincidence," I thought. "They need Jack Murphy to sell their lawn mowers for them."
Then I looked across the street. Directly across the street from this driveway was a garage.
I was so stunned that I had to pull the car over to the side of the road for a moment. I could barely breathe.
I'm a reluctant atheist. I'm a person who wishes he believed in a higher power but thus far has been unable to do so. Faith has been elusive for me. God is someone I want to be real but simply can't accept.
But moments like this - of unbelievable, seemingly impossible coincidence - make me start to wonder if someone is offering me a sign.