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Brilliant Collisions
Brilliant Collisions

“The train jerks to a halt, and as I get out at Oxford Circus, Stewart gets out with me. We look at each other, laugh, and make the standard remark about it being a small world. But this is the brilliant collision: one train later and it might all have turned out differently.”
—Andy Summers, guitarist for The Police

My six-year-old son loves owls. In that charming six-year-old way, that love carries into everything.

We hoot at each other in greeting. We’ve been to the local nature center’s Owl Prowl, where he got to meet some birds in person. Last Christmas was one big Owlapalooza: a huge wall decal with owls, owl sheets, an owl umbrella, even a personalized owl doormat for outside of his room. Recently we had a dance party after stumbling upon a video by the band Owl City.

The whole thing started by accident. When he was two, I went to a weeklong conference, which is equivalent to a month in toddler time. At the end of the week, shortly before my ride to the airport was due to arrive, I realized that I hadn’t gotten him a promised souvenir. I raced to the retreat center’s gift shop.

Most of what I found fell into two categories: “Not intended for a young child” or “Are you kidding me with that price?” Eventually, I happened upon the stuffed animals, including a great horned owl that wouldn’t break the bank. With the clock ticking down, I hurriedly searched for one whose beak wasn’t completely smushed, tried to calm my anxiety in line at the cash register, and ran back to the shuttle stop before my credit card had even cooled down.

That’s how Owlie entered the picture—and transformed our family.

We can’t always predict which choices will wind up having a huge impact on us, whether it's bringing home a stuffed animal or taking a particular train to Oxford Circus. For Andy Summers, running into Stewart Copeland in 1977 was the “brilliant collision” that took The Police to the height of rock stardom and altered the trajectory of their lives. Given how profoundly I love the band’s music even thirty-five years after I first immersed myself in it, that chance meeting changed my life as well.

Will my son’s interest in owls will wane along with his interest in stuffies, or has he begun a lifelong fascination with them? There’s no way to know. Whatever his future holds, I hope he’ll invest it with a love that carries into everything.

Prayer
Pervasive Love, thank you for the gifts of the unexpected, for the chance encounters that enrich our lives out of all proportion. Help us make decisions, however small, based in compassion and integrity. And when we reach a pivot point, be the wind at our back guiding us towards the highest good. Amen and blessed be.

About the Author

  • Rev. Lindasusan V. Ulrich is a minister, writer, musician, and activist dedicated to a vision of radical inclusion in both language and action. She currently serves as Assistant Minister at the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor.

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