August 2013

Line in the Sand: Does Everything Really Happen for a Reason?

Author: Frank Dunne, Jr. & Courtney Hampson | Photographer: Photography by Anne


Funny you should ask, Courtney. Those questions were very much on my mind when I received your e-mail. Of course, there’s a story…

Earlier this summer, Roommate and I took in a young lady from Alabama (I’ll call her Ally to protect the innocent) as a houseguest. She didn’t know us, never intended to stay with us, and given the choice probably never would have. She was here only because a house-and-dog-sitting gig for Roommate’s friends went a little sideways, so Ally and three rather amusing Pomeranians took up temporary residence with us.
I wasn’t about to object. Show me a damsel in distress, and I’ll show you the “S” on my chest, but I was a little uneasy about the arrangement. You see, our vacant rooms are upstairs…where I live…meaning the poor thing, on top of an already bizarre situation for her, had to stay a few steps down the hall from some strange dude old enough to be her dad. Awkward. And I’m talking about me. Imagine what Ally was thinking.

Apparently she was thinking, “No problem.” Ally calmly settled into her strange surroundings and showed nary a hint that she felt anything but safe and secure. We all went to the movies, went out for pizza and did stuff like that. Roommate and I grew very fond of our new “little sister” in no time. “I really like having her here,” said she a few days into Ally’s visit.

“Yeah. Me too.”

I don’t dare suggest that we became close friends. Far from it. The right and proper course for me was to balance being friendly and welcoming with keeping a polite distance, and so I did. There was time spent talking with her, though; and living in the same house over two weeks, you’re naturally going to gain some insight into a person’s character. Smart, kind, thoughtful, wise beyond her years would all fit in the bucket of adjectives and superlatives I might employ to describe Ally, but they’d only be words. I’d rather just say she makes wherever she is a nicer place, and spirits flew higher than usual in this house while she was with us.

I’m a guy who has little if any faith in the youth of America these days, but Ally stopped that train dead in its tracks (for now at least) and prompted me to board another one of introspection.

Ally is nineteen years old, so it’s no stretch to imagine that, had I followed a different path, I might have a daughter about her age now. I wondered to myself, would my daughter be anything like Ally? I’d sure be proud of her. And then, would my daughter be as proud of her papa? Having never married and no kids of my own, I’ve never had that compass to guide my decisions and actions. Admittedly, stretches of adulthood have been spent flying with no compass at all, and thus, my current course could be a little straighter. I just need to make some decisions and take certain actions, some of which I’ve put off…some of them for years.

Time came for Ally to return to her own life, her own dog, her own bed, her favorite coffee mug, and her plans for a transfer to The University of Alabama in the fall. We were happy for her but sad to see her go. Coming home the first time to see Ally’s car gone from the driveway felt as empty as the parking space itself. To fill the void I made a call…one of those decisions I’d been putting off.

I don’t believe for a second that the confluence of events and circumstances causing my path to cross Ally’s when it did is as random as a coin coming up heads. I needed a messenger to smack me in the head and say, “Listen man! You’ve got to do this thing and you’ve got to do it now!” And there she was, without intention and without even knowing it. A higher power is at work here folks. Believe it. It is real.

Thank you, Miss Ally. Roll Tide!


Last month Frank and I lobbed softballs at each other as we debated our favorite movie, which proved difficult for me. I was devastated to later realize that I forgot Footloose. How could I forget Kevin Bacon?

Anyway, somewhere in the middle of the movie column, I drove a line drive right up the middle and tested Frank’s position on whether or not everything truly does happen for a reason. His response, in a subsequent Facebook chat, was, “Yes, I believe there is a plan.” Ah, I’ve got him right where I want him now. If there is a master plan, why does bad stuff happen to good people? Why do planes crash? Why do mad men rush into schools and shoot children? Why do dogs only live for a dozen years? Why? Why? Why?

As luck (or the grand plan) would have it, this morning the Today Show had correspondent Kerry Sanders live in Florida at the trial of George Zimmerman. They showed a year-old clip from a Fox News interview in which George Zimmerman was asked, “Do you regret that you had a gun on you that night?”

Zimmerman’s response, “I feel like it was all part of God’s plan and I shouldn’t second guess it.”

Um, George…allow me to speak up for just a moment. Are you saying that God wanted you to have a gun, and as such, God also wanted Treyvon Martin to die? I’m intrigued… and, I think you’re nuts.

The media is full of all kinds of juicy “it was meant to be” tidbits. A few years ago, CNN ran a story about a married Florida couple who discovered that they had crossed paths much earlier in their lives. Just before their wedding, the two were looking at old photos from the bride’s childhood vacation to Disney World. Upon further inspection, the groom realized that the kid in the stroller in the background of the photo was him! They met, face-to-face, decades later and are now married.

Is that fate—part of the master plan? Or did their parents both happen to take advantage of the same summer special that Walt was running? And, is that fate? Or is it really just a small world after all?

Does everything really happen for a reason? You hear people say that all the time, almost as an excuse. You didn’t get the promotion you were gunning for? Well, everything happens for a reason. Your dog died? Well, everything happens for a reason. Your wife left you? Well, everything happens for a reason.

I do believe that euphemisms happen for a reason. You know, so that we don’t have to say what we are really thinking, like:

“You weren’t qualified.”

“He was 16 years old, and his ticker couldn’t take it anymore.”

“You’ve been sitting on the couch eating wings and sucking the sauce off your fingers for 10 years instead of looking for a job and she was sick of it.”

When a magical moment comes together and you just can’t believe your luck, do you question a higher power, look to the stars, and wonder how can it be that you just happened to be looking at the classified ads for a new vacuum, and a fly landed on the paper, so you rolled it up to swat the fly, and when you unrolled it, it was on a different page, and even though you were looking for vacuums you found a help wanted ad for your dream job, and then you applied, and you got the job. Wowee. Who sent that fly to your house to find you that job? Or, did you spill sweet tea on the coffee table and that is what the fly was attracted to?

I understand the belief in a higher power and I respect it. Hell, two months ago in this very magazine, I was wishing for “someone” to send me a message from my deceased dog Darby.

But, I also question whether everything happens for a reason, because that means that bad things happen to good people for a reason, and I can’t process that. I prefer to live with the belief that I will make my own destiny… bonus for me if someone else is actually looking out for me too!

My destiny right now? Well, to school Frank in the way of the world, of course.

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