Don’t take the ‘if only’ approach to life: Each day holds opportunity

Rev.Dale Turner Oct.7,2000
Seattle Times columnist

   Every one of us is subject to changing moods. We have times when we seri­ously wonder whether our be­ing in the world makes any significant difference at all.
  We wonder what we can do with the limited talent that is ours, and we sometimes find ourselves saying "if only the situation were a little different."

   There are questions we pon­der:

  If only I had more money.
  If only I were not so old.

  If only I felt better and were stronger.

  If only I had married someone else.

  If only I had lesser drives or appetites.

  If only I were in another school.

  If only I had another job.

   When we are tempted to wish we were in more favorable circumstances so that we might enjoy life more, it is wise to recall the wisdom of Charles Spurgeon, one of England's great religious leaders. Spurgeon said, "A fish in the sea might say, 'How I would display the wisdom of God if I could sing or mount a tree like a bird.'
  "But a dolphin in a tree would be a very grotesque affair, and there would be no wisdom of God to admire a trout singing in the groves. But when a fish cuts the wave with agile fin, its very bone is fitted for the circum­stance in which it finds itself. So God has matched our souls to our circumstances. We are not in our present circumstances by accident."

  There are no hopeless situa­tions. There are only those who have grown hopeless about them. We must not let what we cannot do interfere with what we can do.

  There are always things we can do to make life better and brighter for others. "The best way to make glad the heart of the heavenly father is to do some­thing for some of his other children." It may not be a project for which we had hoped or been trained. It may seem common­place and simple, but it can be very important.

  It can be smiling, caring for an invalid, looking after children, keeping house and preparing meals, pounding a typewriter or computer, driving children to their commitments, writing a letter or making a phone call, teaching a class or doing an act of kindness for someone in need. The smallest good deed is better than the greatest good intention.

  I read a story in a periodical by Joel Arthur Barker. It was about a man taking a walk along the beach at sunrise. He caught sight of a young man in the distance who seemed to be dancing along the waves. As he got closer, he saw that the young man was picking up starfish from the sand and tossing them gently back into the ocean.

  "What are you doing?" asked the older man. "The sun is coming up, and the tide is going out; if I don't throw them in the water, they'll die," was the reply. "But young man, there are miles and miles of beach here with starfish all along it. You can't possibly make a difference."

  The young man bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it lovingly back into the ocean, past the breaking waves. "It made a difference to that one," he replied"

  Barker said, "The young man's actions represent some­thing special to each of us. We are all gifted with the ability to make a difference. Each of us can shape our own future. Each of us has the power to help our organizations reach their goals."

  Vision without action is mere­ly a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.

  The cumulative effect of little things done graciously can bring to pass a beautiful life or some other work of artistry.

  Thomas Macaulay, the Brit­ish historian, told the story of the man who had the contract or putting in the stained glass win­dows for a great cathedral. He was amazed by the persistent request of his apprentice for the privilege of designing and ar­ranging the glass for just one window.

  He didn't wish to destroy the young man's ambition, but he didn't want to waste costly material on an experiment. So he said to him, "If you furnish your own material, you may try your hand at that window pointing to one that was not in an especially prominent spot."

  To his surprise, he found the young man gathering up little bits of glass that he, himself, had cut off and thrown away. The apprentice set to work with these and succeeded in working out a design of rare beauty.

  When the doors of the cathe­dral opened and the people came in to view the work, they stood before the apprentice's window, admiring its excellence. Their admiration was so great that the master artist became exceeding­ly jealous.

  The story has a moral for us all. It is possible to gather up little bits of time, energy and opportunity that we often throw away and weave them into a life so beautiful that others stand and marvel.

It is not the big events alone that make us what we are, And not the dizzy moments when we're swinging on a star. It's just the things that happen as along the road we plod. The little things determine what we’re really worth to God.