Thursday, June 21, 2012

When Opportunity Knocks, Don’t Let it Knock You!

"Kayla" wrapped in the Stars & Stripes

We recently drove through what other people had described as a “bad neighborhood.” According to them, crime had skyrocketed in “that part of town,” and it wasn’t a place you wanted to stay for long. Since we couldn’t avoid it in order to get to our destination, we forged ahead.

What makes one neighborhood welcoming and pleasing and another one not? Why did people here look for opportunities to commit acts of violence and lawlessness while other communities worked together to improve their lot?

In one community, people preyed on one another and looked for victims they could overpower or subdue. In the other, people found ways to work together to make everyone’s life better. By all outward appearance, I could not tell the difference between them. The houses were similar, the lawns were green; older neighborhoods can be deceiving.

"Welcoming a Newborn"

It reminded me of long ago when I sold Avon products. All the houses were similar. All the doors I knocked on were in essentially good neighborhoods. When the doors were opened, it was another story.

The interiors of many homes were almost empty. People were literally sleeping on the floor. They had scraped money together to buy a house, but they could barely afford to keep it. Some people were rude and indifferent, others polite and welcoming. I hated lifting my hand to ring a bell or knock on a door. I never knew if I’d be greeted by an angry face, a snarling dog, or a slammed door.

Thank goodness we don’t have to go door to door today. The world has become far too dangerous and unpredictable. Why, I wonder? Is poverty too simple an answer? Does ethnic diversity put people at odds with their neighbors or does it encourage cooperation? Does lack of character and integrity influence people’s behavior more than believed?

"Happy Birthday, Quinn" (one year old!)

We all have choices. One person works to improve his or her lot in life, and another seeks to get as much as he can without regard for the overall good. A freelance writer and friend chose to work under her hair dryer so her young children wouldn’t disturb her concentration. I chose to be available for my children and allowed frequent interruptions or I worked into the night.

When the children’s market went from fantasy to realism, I was like a fish out of water. The sleaze market became hot and romance novels were on the cutting edge. I stuck it out in education and because of it, also became an artist. I made less money, but I stuck by my principles.

Pastor Joe Stowell wrote: “I discovered early in my ministry that my children were not impressed with the books I wrote, titles I had, or places I spoke. They craved my time and attention, the provision for basic needs, a love that patiently forgave, and the creation of a safe place for them to grow and mature.”

"Does this hat make me look fat?" (Zoe, 1 yr.)

We all look to others when our neighborhoods are bad, when our schools fail to teach our children, and when our government runs rampant with corruption and crime. We must ask ourselves: What did I contribute to the current problem or situation? 

Have I done all that I could do to change the present and the future? Have I believed everything I’ve been told or did I do my own homework and get the facts? Am I capable of making wise choices or have I allowed my moral compass to slip and my integrity to bend with popular opinion? Am I indifferent?

Are we providing a spiritual foundation for our children to anchor their lives to or are we letting them swim in the polluted waters of self-gratification and an attitude that if it feels good or looks good, it must be all right.

"Emma's 94th Birthday"

Character is formed through the choices we make. Like those empty houses and the doors I knocked on as an Avon representative, our bodies become like empty shells devoid of conscience and discernment . Our nation, our world needs people willing to stand up for truth and goodness. The time is now.