Along with the coming of spring and the greening of our fields, two other additions recently became entwined with the everyday goings on that is my life.
First, I was blessed with the renewal of an old friendship. A former student from decades ago; a young person I had only seen but once since having them in class, and that crossing paths at a funeral. Her former classmate and my former student; a young life which ended far too soon.
This student had been a joy to teach. She breezed through most assignments and challenged me to find new tasks worthy of her abilities. We lost touch, as so often happens with educators who change districts.
I was positive that this young person would set the literary field afire. Either a journalist or novelist, I was not sure. Something to do in the field of writing, though; I was positive.
Well, more than three decades later—she still wishes to write. A career of business management behind her; the challenge before the yet to be written word. I hope that we stay in touch. I hope that in the not too distant future I am reading a novel by Ms. Shayna Quinn.
Within twenty-four hours of this joyful happenstance, I became the proud owner of a banjo. While auctioneering a fundraiser, I frequently have friends in the audience that will bid to keep things moving; knowing I will later settle the charges. That is how I am now the happy owner of a five-stringed instrument I have no idea how to play.
I am not sure of my plans for this newfound treasure. The pistachio cake I had plans for. As for the gooey pumpkin cake and the cherry pie. The five dozen eggs, chocolate chip cookies and homemade bread I acquired the next evening, all distributed to friends and neighbors. Well, except for a couple of pieces of cake and a couple of the cookies.
The banjo remains in its case; complete with training book and shoulder strap. I like books. I like music. It stands to reason that I might study the one to create the other. Or it might remain in its case — book unread and strings un-plucked — while I go fishing! Time and weather will tell.
I guess what ties these two things together is that both are unexpected opportunity. For myself, the mastery of an instrument. For Ms. Quinn, the reminder that the blank page awaits her thoughts. That barely middle age is certainly not too late to begin a career in writing; anymore that late-middle age is too near the winter of my own life to become a musician.
I have several friends currently battling severe illnesses. I try to remind them that their focus has to be on living, and not on dying. On beginnings and not endings.
That sage advice is true for us all. To focus on new, as well as old, opportunities that surround us.
“To improve the golden moment of opportunity, to catch the good that is within our reach, is the art of life.” So believed Samuel Johnson, 18th century English writer.
Francis Bacon thought: “A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.” Thomas Edison observed, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
Whether the greening of our fields, the promise of a book to be read or written, even the strumming of an instrument — we have opportunity.
Even to “do good to all people.”
By Rick Mansfield
(Rick is a seasoned storyteller and writer, and is always looking for new audiences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)