During a conversation with someone the other day, he said something that really got under my skin. He mentioned a recent article he’d seen from an alumni magazine about me. However, instead of providing a pat on the back for working hard, making the most of an opportunity or similar positives, he instead said something along the lines of “you’re lucky you have the opportunities to do those things.”
Really? That’s what you gleaned from the article? The personal defense mechanisms immediately kicked in. No mention of the year-long discipline around sleep, nutrition, training while running 2 companies and keeping our kids, my incredible bride and volunteer ministry opportunities front and center in our lives? No kudos for trading TV time and sleep-in days for more time to swim/bike/run? Nope. Just that I’m “lucky.” In my overly sensitive brain, I (admittedly incorrectly) heard him say “pretty much anyone in your situation could have done that.”
Then again – maybe his comment is the critical take-away as we move forward. Maybe the key isn’t actually the outcome, but rather what happens in the context of who we are and the gifts available to us. Maybe there is a message here, even if unintended on his part…
He’s actually right. We are incredibly fortunate – I’m incredibly fortunate – in so many ways! In terms of the specifics from the article, I could go through item after item and note how the contributions of others, the timing of many of the specific details, the way things happened to line up with the ages of our kids, Suzanna’s extra time devoted to her Masters, or the development phase of our businesses all had to come together to make them possible. I’m sure you likely feel the same way about some of the positive things that have happened in your life as well. None of us EVER accomplish anything on our own. Ever. Not even close. The opportunites we face (or receive, depending on the point of view taken) are truly a gift.
But then comes the key question… the question that has the potential to change each of our lives in a significant way if taken seriously:
Are we opening the gift?
No two people are ever the same in terms of opportunities, resources, talent, support, timing, etc. The key question isn’t tied to where we stack up within some specific bell curve category of income, competitive results, education levels, job title or otherwise. Rather, the key question is all about whether or not we made the most of what WE have been given. We have all received many gifts. Some of those gifts just sit there, unopened. Eventually they fall to the wayside, with the opportunity window closing before ever activated. Others? They get opened, treasured and optimized. It’s our choice to make.
Maybe he was right. I was (and am) extremely fortunate. However, it’s what we DO within that good fortune that really defines who we are. This year provides many new gifts that sit right there in front of us. Is it time to open those gifts?