“Not many sounds in life, and I include all urban and all rural sounds, exceed in interest a knock at the door” (Charles Lamb).
I REALLY LIKE THE CONCEPT OF “OPPORTUNITY.” It is full of adventure and intrigue, and my heart is strongly drawn to it. But I am like most people in that I fail to see most of the opportunities that present themselves to me. “The opportunities of man are limited only by his imagination. But so few have imagination that there are ten thousand fiddlers to one composer” (Charles F. Kettering).
One obvious reason why we fail to recognize opportunity is that it often involves difficulty, unpleasantness, and maybe even pain. Naively thinking that an opportunity would always be a “positive” experience, we are blind to the possibilities embedded in those situations that we refer to as “problems.” As Charles Swindoll put it, “We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.” Even if it is outright evil that we are dealing with (either in our own hearts or in the lives of others), it would be helpful if we could see these circumstances differently. Even in evil, there is great opportunity. “The greater the evil, the greater the opportunity to fashion out of it everlasting good” (Hannah Hurnard).
When opportunities arise, we often back away from them. Real engagement with life is strenuous, and so it’s easier to stay uninvolved. “Life is always walking up to us and saying, ‘Come on in, the living’s fine,’ and what do we do? Back off and take its picture” (Russell Baker). But when we take the path of non-engagement, we lose most of what life was meant to be. So I like Tom Peters’ good advice: “If a window of opportunity appears, don’t pull down the shade.”
I want to end, however, by suggesting that we should be primarily concerned not about our own opportunities, but about those that we create for others. When I die, my sons won’t get much money, if any, from my estate, but I hope I have opened one or two doors and given them a chance to see a few horizons beyond the limits of my own life. That’s what my parents did for me, and I am strongly motivated to seize the opportunities that were bequeathed to me.
“The dead are living all around us, watching with eager anticipation how we will handle the opportunities they left in our hands when they died” (Theodore C. Speers).