As luck would have it. Or not.


By Janice Lindsay, Contributing Writer

Janice Lindsay reflects on the belief or disbelief in luck.
Janice Lindsay

When my husband was a child, his mother told him that it was bad luck to put shoes on the bed. That’s ridiculous. Shoes on the bed don’t bring bad luck. Everybody knows that it’s putting a hat on a bed that brings bad luck.

But of course, we here in the twenty-first century don’t really believe in luck, do we? We know that the universe is governed by predictable laws of nature, not by some capricious, careless creature like luck, “a force that brings good fortune or adversity.” We’re smart. We tell ourselves things like “you create your own reality” and “the harder you work, the luckier you get.”

So we don’t worry if somebody opens an umbrella in the house. Friday the thirteenth is just another day. When we contemplate a bit of good fortune, we don’t knock on wood or keep our fingers crossed. We walk right under ladders without giving it a second thought. If we spill salt, it doesn’t occur to us to grab a pinch and toss it over our left shoulder to counteract the inevitable misfortune. We don’t mind seating thirteen people at dinner.

We don’t bother to pick up a penny on the sidewalk. Actually, I do pick up pennies, but that’s because I’m a skinflint, not because leaving it there would have negative consequences. We’re not afraid of stepping on sidewalk cracks. A broken mirror means nothing but a careful cleanup. We don’t call on our lucky number when we buy lottery tickets. Athletes don’t wear their lucky shirts or lucky shorts of lucky socks or lucky sneakers until they rot. 

I’ve always considered myself a lucky person.  But I’m sure it has nothing to do with the four-leaf clovers I’ve been collecting and pressing into the pages of an old Bible and other books since I was eight.

Then there were those bear paws I found when I shucked corn as a child. Grandpa always said that finding a bear-claw ear – flattened at the narrow end – was good luck. Maybe he just wanted me to keep shucking, but still….

My grandparents lived a long, healthy, and apparently happy life. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that they always kept a horseshoe nailed above their kitchen door, which was the entrance to their house. The horseshoe, of course, must be nailed with the points pointing up; if they point down, any luck that might be tempted to bless that house would fall out.

A bride doesn’t wear a penny in her shoe – not to mention something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. In the interest of full disclosure: I did all those things when I was a bride, not because I believe in luck, of course, but because, well, you never really know, do you? In my case, I had to remove the penny from my shoe because it caused such severe foot pain, but I’m sure I got credit for trying.

As for my mother-in-law’s assertion about the bad luck brought by shoes on the bed: My husband never, ever put his shoes on the bed. I don’t know if this helped him avoid bad luck, but he surely had one stroke of very good luck: He found me, didn’t he?

Maybe there’s no such thing as luck; on the other hand, what if there is?

As a wise Irishman once observed, there’s no such thing as the little people, but it doesn’t hurt to tip your hat when you walk by the place where they live.





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