My email address is simple and common enough that I regularly get email meant for someone else. I usually ignore it, but sometimes the content seems important enough that I let the sender know. My favorite reply was when I wrote, "You have the wrong address." and the person responded, "Sorry, what address do you want me to use?"
A new wrinkle has appeared. There's a Reverend Brian Bailey in England and I've started receiving email addressed to him. There's nothing typical or unimportant about these messages. They're emails from family members of someone recently deceased. The person (usually a son or daughter) was offering stories and tidbits for the Reverend to use in the upcoming funeral.
The stories were beautiful and sad, touching and funny, as you would expect. I remember one lovely line, "May her soul continue to dance."
It felt enormously awkward to receive such personal messages or to interject myself, a stranger in another country, into such a significant moment. I had to let them know they'd sent the message to the wrong person, though. Imagine if the funeral proceeded without their perspective included. So, I started replying as kindly as possible.
I quickly realized that replying without a solution just made the situation worse. No one wants to track down a problem with an email address in the middle of that. So, I connected a few dots and located Rev. Brian Bailey of Scunthorpe along with his email address.
Now, when the emails arrive, my reply is more helpful. I tell them I'm sorry for their loss and include the correct email address. They're often reply with gratitude.
These brief, accidental exchanges with people I will never meet mean a lot to me. What a shift in perspective a single misdirected email can provide. Suddenly, whatever I'm currently obsessing over looks quite different. Also, any encounter with such heartfelt honesty is worthwhile. I'm grateful for each mistake.
One of favorite mistakes happened on Twitter. Radhika accidentally replied to me, which happens all the time, but she was the first person who sent a follow-up reply.
That simple kindness led me to listen to her wonderful music and she started reading about Uncommon. She became a friend and integral part of this community, and eventually performed at one of our events, all from a random mistake.
Here's to mistakes and surprising moments of serendipity.