As the poet once asked, “Can you see the flowers when no flowers are there? When the sky is empty and the fields are bare, can you see the beauty.” Those moments when our world seems to do an about‑face could be an invitation from life to walk in another direction, to move toward a new frontier, or pioneer a heart‑held dream!
One pioneering woman is Chiara Lubich. Her Focolare, or “Fireside,” movement, begun in Italy in 1943 has become a successful international means of providing lay communities structured as families and imbued with the loving ethos of family life. She has taken seriously the challenge to become a co‑creator with God through a perpetually advancing mind. Charles Kettering, a scientist whose research included the invention of automotive starting and ignition systems said, “There will always be a frontier where there is an open mind and a willing hand.”
Our willingness to try new experiences can teach us much about the world and assist us on the way to success. Lewis Browne was an American rabbi and author, born in England. Having been a rabbi for six years, he decided to become a writer. Once at a literary dinner, Browne was questioned by another rabbi about his early career. “You were a rabbi, eh,” the rabbi remarked. “Were you unfrocked?” Browne replied, “No, just unsuited.”
Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz, the Swiss naturalist, made many major contributions to paleontology. He also became professor of zoology at Harvard in 1848, deeply influencing the teaching of natural history in the United States. And one of the many jobs William Faulkner
took before he established himself as a writer was as postmaster at the University of Mississippi post office.
If you look at the people you know in everyday life, you may find several who have, for various reasons, moved into an alternate plan of livelihood. One such young lady, whom we shall call Marion, married early in life. After four short but happy years together, her husband was killed in an automobile accident, leaving Marion with two small children. She immediately found a secretarial job, which provided a small income. Realizing that in order to better provide for her family she needed additional education, Marion also began attending evening classes at a nearby college. She was fortunate in having a wonderful neighbor who helped care for the children.
Several years passed, during which time Marion took care of her family, studied intently, and held a variety of part‑time jobs to supplement her secretarial income. Then one day, the door of opportunity opened, and Marion could choose from several possible positions. She was well known and respected in the community for her commitment to the raising of her children and her dedication to excellence in her work. Her efforts had provided her a well‑rounded education, and Marion knew she could always have an alternate plan of livelihood.
Major changes often occur when we least expect them and can result in conditions beyond our conscious imagination. As in Marion’s story, after the initial shock of an unexpected change begins to lessen and some objectivity is gained, we can look around for alternatives. Start by clearing your mind of doubts and fears about your ability to bring into being the desires of your heart. A well‑known Boy Scout motto is “Be prepared!” Explore various avenues of interest. Get involved with a hobby. A number of receptive thinkers have turned these interests into lucrative livelihoods when life circumstances necessitated change. Think creatively.
In the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach, Jonathan’s teacher Chiang tells him, “The trick is to stop seeing yourself as trapped inside a limited body with a 42‑inch wingspan. . . . The trick is to know that your true nature lives, as perfect as an unwritten number, everywhere at once across space and time.” The Chinese patriarch Chuang‑Tsu taught the same principle thousands of years ago. He said, “In a dream I saw myself as a great butterfly with wings that spanned the entire universe. Now I am not quite sure if I am Chuang‑Tsu dreaming I am a butterfly, or perhaps I am a butterfly dreaming I am Chuang‑Tsu!”
It takes courage to face the challenges of life. When we keep in reserve an alternate plan for our livelihood, we can have the strength to do whatever we need to do. Find your source. Live from it. And keep your heart open.