Serendipity is the unexpected discovery of something valuable or useful. Perhaps these events are God’s crib notes for us, His way of helping slow learners figure out some of the puzzling parts of His complex universe.

When a Stone Age man accidentally dropped a flint stone onto a rock containing pyrite and realized the resulting spark was good news, he might have thought, “Oh great! Now I won’t have to wait for the next scary lightning bolt to start a jungle fire. Goodbye to raw meat dinners!”

The apple that fell on Isaac Newton’s head was a serendipity clue that got him started working on the law of gravity. I hope Congress doesn’t try to amend it.

There are other less monumental serendipity events, like when you put on an old hoodie and find a $50 bill in the pouch. If it’s a $50 electric bill, that wouldn’t be serendipity, but at least you’d have finally found out why the power was turned off last winter.

Important serendipity discoveries were made when the persons involved weren’t searching for anything. Biologist Alexander Fleming left a messy lab table when he went on vacation. Returning, he found dead bacteria that had been exterminated by a strange mold, and penicillin was eventually born.

The Kellogg brothers, health food experts, accidentally invented corn flakes when they let a cooked batch of meal go stale. They toasted it, rolled it out, and it emerged in tiny crisp pieces. Percy Spencer, who had a sweet tooth, was doing radar research when he noticed the candy bar in his pocket had suddenly melted. He substituted corn and it popped. He got the general idea and went on to invent the microwave oven. Silly Putty was invented when James Wright gave up trying to come up with a new synthetic rubber formula.

“Eureka!” is the usual shout when a geek suddenly sees the solution to the problem he’s been wrestling with for so long. It’s different with serendipity where there was no known problem to begin with. Sometimes the discovery isn’t all that obvious to the eye witness who might say, “Hey, why did it do that? Oh, shucks, I’m putting in lead and it’s coming out gold. The boss is going to be really angry. The contract calls for lead doorstops. What’s he going to do with gold doorstops?”

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