Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology

Formation and Education for the Life of the Church

Opportunity Knocks (Softly)

by Ann Cavera


While at dinner with some friends one Sunday evening, the conversation turned to opportunities we had missed. All of us had a few lingering regrets over opportunities we had missed because of our own lack of vision.

For instance, during the summer of 1965 in San Francisco, friends invited Jim to go with them to hear Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops give a free concert in Golden Gate Park. Instead, he stayed in the dorm to prepare a class presentation due the next day.

For months, his friends talked about how wonderful the music had been and what a great time they had. Jim can't recall anything about his presentation, but he thought of his lost opportunity every time the Boston Pops were on TV.

I made similar short-sighted decisions on two separate occasions during my college years. While in Amherst, Massachusetts, a friend invited me to go with her to hear Robert Frost read some of his poetry. I refused because I had to study for a test the next day.

I remember nothing about the test, but I bet my friend still remembers Robert Frost. A year or so later, my roommate begged me to go with her to hear a wonderful cellist give a free campus concert. Since I had never heard of Pablo Casals, I politely declined.

You would think I might have learned something from both of these missed opportunities. However, a few years later, one afternoon in Baltimore I came upon a sign in front of a museum inviting the public to come in and meet an artist. I wandered into an exhibit of Andrew Wyeth's paintings.

The art was breathtaking. He had such genius for painting real people in everyday life. The line to buy a print and have him sign it was long, and besides, could I really afford to pay $50 for a picture by an unfamiliar artist? I walked away empty-handed.

All of us have some small "If only" moments. What about the great-grandfather who went out west to prospect for gold? He split up with his partner two days before the other man struck it rich. Then, there was a woman in Louisiana who, many, many years ago, turned down a date with a young naval officer. Who knew John F. Kennedy would someday be president?

The problem with golden opportunities is they often arrive disguised as ordinary moments. How little any of us really see! Blind as we are, most of us seem to somehow gather enough right choices to make pretty good lives for ourselves.

We count our good fortune in the blind date who became the love of our life, the gift of satisfying work, opportunities for our children and great friends. All of these are gifts of ordinary moments where we happened to say "yes" to life. The fortunate "yes" gives the Holy Spirit room to work.

Now that we understand how easy it is to miss opportunities, we become more determined to say "yes" to small moments. In doing so, we might stumble into the company of a great poet, hear music by a master or even end up with a Wyeth print hanging on our living room wall.

As we begin a new year, we pray for open eyes and the wisdom to find the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of our lives. 

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Echoes from the Bell Tower is a blog devoted to observations on Christian faith, spirituality and everyday events, by authors with a connection to the Benedictine values found at Saint Meinrad Archabbey and its Seminary and School of Theology. Contributors include students, permanent deacons, Benedictine oblates and Saint Meinrad monks. Their stories, thoughts and ideas highlight the mission and vision that ring out from the bell towers on this Hill in southern Indiana.