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Friday the 13th

Students are encouraged to consider their beliefs about the role of chance and fate in their lives on this, reputedly the unluckiest day of the year.

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


Students are encouraged to consider their beliefs about the role of chance and fate in their lives on this, reputedly the unluckiest day of the year.

Preparation and materials

  • You need two readers.
  • Marie Rawsthorne’s story can be found in the Sunday Times, 1 January 1995 (page 3).
  • Suggested music: ‘I’m Lucky’ by Joan Armatrading


  1. Are you a lucky or unlucky person? Compare yourself with Marie.

    Reader 1: Marie has been involved in many car accidents. On one 50-mile journey she had eight scrapes and near misses.

    Reader 2: While having tests for breast cancer she fell and broke her arm, then she broke her leg a short while later.

    Reader 1: Within a period of 18 months she lost her mother, all four grandparents, an aunt and two cousins.

    Reader 2: Her house has twice caught fire. Just before she was to be married, the church burned to the ground. She’s also been made homeless.

    Reader 1: Daily she suffers trivial accidents or damage: the car won’t start, electrical equipment fails to work, pictures fall off the wall, friends call round and cause breakages to her possessions.
  2. How unlucky is that? Today is Friday the 13th, the day when misfortune and bad luck stalk the land, when bad things happen to good people. What do you believe about luck? Here are four possible options.

    Reader 1: Our lives are governed by the position of the stars and planets. Like magnets they exert a powerful pull over us, creating opportunities and barriers that we must contend with. Horoscopes help us to interpret what is likely to happen and take account of these factors in our actions.

    Reader 2: God has predestined all that is to happen in our lives. It’s written out for us in his book. However, he will intervene and change things if we ask him fervently enough.

    Reader 1: We are totally in control of our own lives. It’s all about the choices that we make. Some are right, some are wrong. Some are carefully calculated, others are a deliberate gamble. No one else can be blamed.

    Reader 2: Life is all about random chance. We live in chaos and must accept what comes to us, like it or not.
  3. I can’t say that I’m happy with any of those options. None of them totally squares with my experience. I feel I’m in charge to some extent but then again I’m affected by the decisions others make. There are also times when I’m conscious of some other factors in operation which I can’t explain. At the least they’re incredible coincidences.

    So how can we judge whether we’re lucky or unlucky people? Psychologists claim that it might have something to do with our perspective on life: if we’re optimistic, hopeful people, then we see only the positive side of situations. For instance, if we fell down the stairs and broke our leg the pessimist would say, ‘Why does this always happen to me, it’s dreadful?’ But the optimist might say, ‘Thank goodness I didn’t break my neck.’ In addition, those who remember and celebrate the good times build up a deposit of good memories with which to balance the hard times.

    Others claim that, especially on Friday the 13th, if we’re wary and indecisive in our actions then we’re more likely to have accidents and miss opportunities. The positive, decisive person will make their own luck and take the opportunity before it recedes. If they make a mistake then it’s seen as a learning opportunity. As the saying goes: getting it wrong is part of getting it right.
  4. For a believer it’s about drawing on your faith. Jesus prayed that God would ‘deliver us from evil’ and for many that’s a daily prayer. I’ve also heard it said that coincidences happen more often when you pray.

Time for reflection

Spend a moment considering the following thoughts. You may wish to turn them into a prayer:

Be thankful for the successes in your life over the past few days.

Be sorry for those occasions recently when something you did or said had a detrimental effect on someone else.

Make a plan to take some action that arises out of today’s assembly.


Play the track ‘I’m Lucky’ by Joan Armatrading.

Publication date: February 2009   (Vol.11 No.2)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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