Cheryl Hughes: Opportunity In Overalls
One Sunday, our pastor said, “When you say yes to one thing, you’ve said no to a million other things. It’s important to know what is yours to do.”
I’ve thought about that a lot since that Sunday, and I’ve reached the conclusion that for the most part, I know what is mine to do. I don’t always do it, because sometimes other things seem more interesting or come with more immediate results or the child in me says, “Don’t tell me what to do!” But I know what is mine to do.
Motion is an easy, natural thing for me. I like to flit from thing to thing, and I often get involved in other people’s projects, in the name of helping them. And that’s okay if it isn’t taking the place of something I’m putting off. When I was young, I believed time and energy to be boundless. Nothing seemed imperative. I see now a lot of things were and are.
I remember the day my young granddaughter, Sabria, learned the lesson of missed opportunity. She was four years old at the time. Her grandfather (Garey) had invited her to eat breakfast at McDonalds with him. She told him she wanted to stay home with me, and he could bring her back something.
Within ten minutes of Garey leaving, Sabria said, “Gee, I changed my mind. I want to go with PaPa.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, “but you’ve missed your opportunity.”
“What’s opportunity?” she asked.
I explained that sometimes you get a chance to do something, that’s opportunity. When you don’t do something you had the chance to do, that is missed opportunity. She was still crying over her advantage that same evening, though. When Natalie told her it was time for a bath, she said, “Mama, I want to miss this opportunity to take a bath.”)
Writing is an opportunity that is mine to do. It’s hard, because I have to sit in one spot for an extended period of time, and I’m not much of a sitter. Roseann Cash (Johnny’s daughter) said once, when she sits down to write a song, she ends up eating everything in the kitchen cabinets before she finally settles down to writing. For me, cleaning is the distraction of choice. During my time finishing up my degree at Western, if I had a term paper due, you could eat off my floors. I did any and everything that would give me a chance not to have to sit down and write.
Some opportunities have passed me by because I’ve chosen not to choose one way or the other. Wait long enough and pretty much anything will go away, including opportunity. I can’t really say I’ve missed many opportunities. I’ve ignored a few, but I know an opportunity when I see one.
Thomas Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Maybe, that’s why I do recognize it. Opportunity looks like my father, a sawmill man, dressed in overalls, always making things work.