Sunday, January 09, 2011

Opportunity Cost

So that's what has been on my mind for several weeks now-- Opportunity.  Several years ago I read the book Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.  One of his points is that success is a combination of excellence and opportunity.  We easily point the finger of luck toward the successes of others, but often choose to attribute our own to hard work and effort.  But without the opportunity, all of the effort in the world is lost; and without effort, opportunity is wasted.

My third-grade daughter began to prepare for a social studies test before the winter break and the concept of "opportunity cost" was a difficult one for her to get.  It is the idea that some choices have more than a monetary cost, but you give up something else when you make them.  Sometimes we foolishly prepare for opportunities that we don't want to miss (e.g. playing the lottery) but other times, we consider foolish, those who do not prepare for the opportunities that are certain (e.g. health insurance).

The news this week fits well the idea of opportunity.  We discussed the story of Ted Williams, the Man With the Golden Voice earlier in the week in my high school leadership class.  Mr. Williams was given an opportunity when someone with a camera chose to give him help, but if his "God-given talent" was simply "ordinary" he would have been just another panhandler getting a couple of dollars from another stranger.  But Mr. Williams was able and prepared to take advantage of the opportunity.  Now, once again, he is faced with numerous opportunities that are his to take advantage of, or to lose.

In the other major news of the week, opportunity knocked on both sides of the door.  In the tragic shooting that took place in Arizona this weekend, a disturbed young man prepared for an opportunity to add to the depravity of our world.  But even in the midst of this depravity, redemption comes through heroism.  Patricia Maisch and others who followed the lead of this average 61 year old woman made quick work of an opportunity and brought a tragic event to an end.  This tragedy also presents an opportunity for our nation.  An opportunity to honestly discuss the eventual outcome of consistently dehumanizing and objectifying one another in the name of politics.

Tonight in Bible study, we looked at the story of Peter and John healing a lame man from Acts chapter three.  The two men were on their way to the temple for prayer at 3:00.  Probably their normal routine, something they'd done daily for most of their lives.  They crossed a beggar.  Probably one of many, maybe they'd even seen him before.  But today, they stopped.  The Spirit of God was with them.  This lame man just wanted a few bucks.  It would've been easy to avoid him, or toss a few shekels in the cup to make your conscience feel better.  Not today.  Because these two men were prepared for the opportunity by being open and obedient, this lame man stood and walked for the first time in forty years.

I think that would be the best way for us to approach the opportunities of our life, keeping an humble attitude, submissive to God and responsive to our surroundings.  Compare this to the attitude of self-promotion, submissive to no one and responsive only to our own needs.  This is the difference in an opportunity fulfilled and an opportunity defiled.

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