POEM: Opportunity Accost

Having arrived
Delivered by a private message
The bad knews
Out of the weigh
Surrounded
Only
Good news ahead
Able to attack
On any affront

This poem is based on an old joke, that goes something like this: The courier arrives with news from the battlefield, telling the general that he has good news and bad news, and asks which he would like first.  The general asks for the bad news first.  The courier indicates that they are surrounded by the enemy.  The general then asks for the good news.  The courier replies, “The good news is that we can attack on any front.”

Every person that works on bettering the human condition knows that there is an abundance of needs, bordering on the overwhelming.  This very reality is perhaps the leading cause of burnout among do-gooders.  I like this old joke because it highlights the overwhelming opportunity present in life.  While we may spend huge amounts of resources in needs assessments, and countless hours in planning meetings, to get just the right mix of strategies and interventions, you don’t have to look very far or even very closely to find human need.  If a human need touches your heart, lend a hand, even your whole life if need be.  As a former professional planner, now trying to recover from such a chronic predicament, I am reminded again of the quote from United Methodist theologian and activist Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”  I suspect that whatever purported efficiency gained by most needs assessments and most time spent in planning meetings would be better invested in doing whatever makes us come alive amidst the dizzying array of human needs ripe for the plucking.  For some rare individuals that may even be conducting needs assessments or planning meetings.  For most, the time would be more enlivening spent in the fields of humanity where “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” (Luke 10:2, Matthew 9:37)

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