The title is spanish for “Everything Happens For a Reason”
This phrase is usually told through a religious context. It asks to have faith in the events that happen to us, that they happen due to some grander purpose. During a formative moment of my childhood, I heard a story that shifted my perspective on this. The following parable was originally told to me in Spanish, and is being retold through translation to the best of my recollection.
There once was an old man travelling the countryside with his son. They hopped from village to village in search of places to stay.
They arrived at a wealthy estate and arranged a deal to stay for a week. This transaction quickly proved to be unfavorable for the old man and his son, after realizing how inhospitable the rich landowner was towards them. He wouldn’t provide food, he yelled at the son, and he threatened eviction if chores weren’t completed. On the last day of their stay, the old man found a hole in the basement wall. He decided to fetch some drywall and patch up the hole until the blemish was indistinguishable from the rest of the wall. After leaving, the son was beyond puzzled.
“After how poorly he treated us, why did you do him that favor?”
“Mi hijo, todo sucede por una razón.”
The next week they came across a farm where a poor family offered to give them a place to stay. The family didn’t have much food, but as gracious hosts, they offered to split every limited meal they had with the old man and his son. They offered their only bed to sleep. They went out of their way to retrieve extra water from the lake. However, on the last night, the old man took the only cow that the poor family had been subsisting on to slaughter in the backyard. Even after the family extended forgiveness, the old man and his son left the following morning to continue their journey.
“After how hospitable they were, why would you betray them like that?!”
“Mi hijo, todo sucede por una razón.”
“No! I refuse to keep travelling with you until you tell me what’s going on!”
The old man went on to explain “everything is not always like it seems.
“I wasn’t trying to help the old man. On the other side of the hole was a mountain of gold hidden behind it. I wanted to patch it up to make sure the wealthy landowners could never find it.
“I didn’t mean to betray the poor family. On the night I slaughtered the cow, the grim reaper had come intending to take the family’s father. I worked out a deal with the reaper to take the cow instead as long as I did the deed. Now, the kids could still grow up having a father to look out for them.
“Todo sucede por una razón.”
My mom told me that story when I was twelve years old. The night before, I had found out for the first time that my parents were getting divorced.
I was shocked by this news. Growing up, I was vaguely familiar with the concept of a divorce, but never thought it was possible for it to happen to my family. My parents never fought in front of us. The summer before, the five of us had just spent a vacation in the Bahamas that made it seem like they couldn’t be happier. Gross mom and dad, not in front of us.
But then one night, my dad had mysteriously stopped staying at our house. After my mom put me to bed, I started to hear some whispers. I needed to find out what the hell was going on. Why wasn’t dad staying at our house?
From the doorway of my bedroom and hidden from their direct sight, I saw my parents start to argue for the first time. Raised voices, accusations, apologies, sentences that I didn’t think were possible to come out of their mouths. I stood there paralyzed, not able to process what was going on and what they were talking about. After my dad left, I squirreled from the doorway and hopped into the comfort of my blanket, hoping that it shielded me away from the reality that was unfolding. Hoping that my mom didn’t see me eavesdropping. But moms always know.
She stepped into my room and sat at the edge of my bed. I lowered the blanket from over my head and sat up. “What were you guys talking about?” She went on to explain what was going to happen, that my dad will no longer be staying with us. She tried to comfort me that everything was happening for a reason and that there will be good to come from it. But, I was still confused by the time I went to bed.
The idea of everything happening for a reason didn’t resonate at first. It felt very religious and like a leap of faith that I wasn’t comfortable making. But as I started to see all the benefits that came out of my parents divorce, I fell in love with the idea.
My dad got remarried, and with it I gained two new stepbrothers. We all hit it off immediately, so much so that I view David and Mikey as my biological brothers now. I couldn’t imagine becoming closer to two new family members as we are with them. Either through causation or correlation, we began to spend time with the extended parts of each side of the family more after the divorce. My mom was one of eight, which meant I have 23 cousins that I got to know better. My dad’s mom was one of thirteen, which meant I have an unfathomably large number of second cousins on that side that we got to spend more time with. When two people are in an unhappy relationship, it’s almost as if they were sacrificing these opportunities. Untethered and free to fight for our attention, the arms race between the two of them allowed us to connect more with members of each side of the family.
Finally, and most importantly, both my mom and dad are much happier today. The more I ask about the past, the more I realized how much discontent they shielded away from us as kids. The more aware I am of how much happier and carefree my dad is now about his life. The more I get to share in the excitement my mom has in spending time with her kids and her siblings. While the divorce was confusing and disruptive at the time, todo sucede por una razón. And the razónes that have come out of this change have been nothing short of wonderful.
After almost 13 years, this parable my mom told me has still stuck in my head. Not just for its application to the divorce of my parents. It’s a lens by which I now experience all events in my life. Shit happens. We face roadblocks. Times get unbearably difficult, with no end in sight. But this mindset shift is about more than just finding a silver lining in any given unfortunate event.
It’s about accepting the harsh realities that happen to us, and trusting that they will begin to resolve themselves over time. Sometimes, in ways that are beautifully unexpected.