C is for Coincidence ………….Why I’m a Skeptic
Do you sometimes wonder if an occurrence was a coincidence or……if other forces were at
work? A friend and I were discussing this the other day and I told her a story about something that happened to me a while back.
I’ll change a couple of names here – for the privacy of the individuals. But the rest of this tale is absolutely 100 % true.
One of my classes in grad school was The Nature of Stress and Health. For our term paper I had decided on the topic “The Relationship Between Stress and Cancer”. My classmate and colleague Valerie and I headed over to the Cal State Northridge library after work to hit the stacks and hopefully to make some progress on our research.
Valerie and I both worked in Nursing Administration at a local hospital; I was the Director of In-service Education and was pursuing my Master’s evenings and weekends.
We spent close to three hours going through piles of books and journals. I was looking for scientific studies that pertained to my subject matter of stress and cancer; they were scarce but I did find several anecdotal reports that were fascinating. And you know how it goes when you start doing research; one article leads you to another and yet another: something like web cruising actually.
So I copied up the few that looked promising but was frustrated by not being able to locate more. There were two that I was especially disappointed not to find. They had been referred to in yet another publication as a source and had been written by a psychologist named Arthur Barnwell. One referenced a paper he had written; another referenced “personal communication.”
So Val and I packed up for the evening and went to our homes to continue our reading.
The next morning I was back at my desk by 8:30 and got busy organizing a full day of nurse orientation and specialty training classes.
At just after 9 AM my phone rang – the caller said: Hello Mrs. Greer, my name is Dr. Arthur Barnwell. I coach medical personnel in stress reduction techniques and would like to talk to you about setting up a session for your staff there at the hospital.
After I regained consciousness I responded: I’d be happy to talk to you further about that Dr. Barnwell. But first I have a request for you. You know that article that you wrote about Stress and Cancer 2 years ago? Where can I find a copy of it? Then I went on to explain what had happened the previous evening.
We finished our conversation and I immediately ran into Valerie’s office jumping up and down and screaming at the top of my voice: “You won’t believe who just called, you won’t believe this!!!”
Epilogue: I got my articles directly from the author a couple of days later in the mail. And the following month our nursing staff got some hints as to how they could lower their day to day stress level at work. Oh, and I got an A in the class!
I’m still reluctant to call what happened a simple coincidence. What do you think?