Pure luck, hard work often lead to surprising rewards

Like every episode of “Sex and the City,” one called “The Freak Show” from season two begins with Carrie Bradshaw narrating her latest sex column.But unlike other episodes, “The Freak Show” opens with a reel of footage of immigrants entering the United States, pausing for a few seconds on two men looking up hopefully, seemingly at the promise of a new life in a new country.

The man on the right wears a wide-brimmed hat, and his starched, white collar and dark-colored necktie are just visible beneath his buttoned-up trench coat.

To anyone who saw the episode, he was just another nameless face, a couple of seconds of stock footage before the real fun began.

But as my grandmother, Eva Sampson, watched a rerun of “The Freak Show” a few months ago, she saw not a random immigrant, but someone very dear to her – Fritz Jessner, her father.

My great-grandfather, an actor and director, was in a documentary in the 1940s about immigrants, based on his own experience coming to the United States to escape Nazi Germany.

Even more incredible than the fact that my 90-year-old grandmother was watching “Sex and the City” and happened to catch the episode with footage of her father, is the fact that she was able to obtain a copy of the original documentary.

Fritz died of a heart attack about two years after the movie’s release, but copyright law prevented my grandmother and her stepmother from obtaining a copy of the movie all those decades ago.

Until a few months ago, my grandmother had thought it was lost in time.

Sometimes, pure dumb luck does exist.

But even for those who are extraordinarily lucky – no one in my family will gamble without Eva around – the trick is recognizing how to take advantage of momentary fortune.

For example, Eva could have simply been satisfied with knowing her father’s documentary existed, and millions of viewers across the country caught a glimpse of it.

Instead, Eva recruited the help of my aunt in tracking down the film through a couple months of e-mail correspondence with HBO and Getty Images.

Now my family has a copy of it, allowing my father and his siblings to see the grandfather they never met, and my generation and those after to see a piece of history that is slowly being forgotten with time.

Sometimes luck is just finding a dollar on the street, being treated to lunch by a friend or having a professor postpone that unfinished assignment.

But finishing that assignment by the new date may lead to an excellent recommendation that is the determining factor in landing the perfect job.

Being treated to lunch might lead to decades of fond memories if the friend is treated in return.

That dollar could be the start of a billion-dollar empire if used wisely.

Thomas Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

A single lucky moment can lead to a lifetime of good fortune – if we, also, are willing to work.

Talia Sampson is a senior news-editorial journalism major from Moorpark, Calif.