Opportunities pass by unless we grab hold

Theresa Montgomery

I find inspiration in the unexpected.

I was recently at a performance of a play at Heritage Park, between the Main Street bridge and the dam over the Cuyahoga River, that depicted the founding of Kent. Franklin Mills, it was called then.

At the outset of the outdoor drama, the adjacent railroad tracks played an inadvertent, starring role, and later provided me food for thought.

As the coonskin-capped main character descended the staircase off Main Street to deliver his opening monologue, a train rumbled by on the nearby tracks, whistle blowing. Whatever words the actor may have spoken were drowned in a friendly cacophony of clanking tracks and – in case we had missed it – continuous whistle blows.

Minutes went by. One, two, three, and the train rumbled on. The actor, dressed in 19th century period costume, stood his ground, while any illusion of the setting of an earlier time and place shattered more with every creaking railroad tie.

When the noise subsided, the undeterred actor picked up his lines and the play resumed. In relatively short order, the audience was again mesmerized, lost in the portrayal of the Ohio frontier.

I was impressed by the actor’s stoic patience. Were I him, I might have felt, given the inescapable, painfully piercing intrusion of 2006 on the 1806 setting of the play, that it was time to escape up the staircase into the anonymous night air of modern Kent.

As I thought about this afterward, I realize how often I let go of choices in difficult situations instead of making the best of whatever options I have.

I quit trying too soon, too often.

Maybe it’s because I assume there will always be another time, another chance, another way to get where I want to go.

I tell myself the opportunity of the moment isn’t so valuable, so unique, that it can’t be replaced. Instead of grabbing on and hanging in there, I loosen my grip and hope for the best.

Sometimes that works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

I wonder how often this type of gambling with, and banking on, future opportunities in our everyday lives leads us to make irresponsible decisions.

I can tank up my SUV today; I’ll think about getting a hybrid car next year or the year after.

It’s hot today; I can turn up the air conditioner despite the ozone alert. I mean, it’s not like I can really solve the world’s problems by sweating it out. I’ll turn it down tomorrow.

I’ve wanted to volunteer at that charity, but I’m really jammed for time. I’m sure they have plenty of people to help. I’ll think about it next semester.

The accumulation of such moments – our daily decisions – create the patterns and grooves that identify us as a society and determine our futures.

If it’s okay for me, this time, to let the opportunity for a better future wait for another day or another person, who will I look to when I no longer have the same open horizon of appealing options?

I hope I remember that coonskin-capped actor next time I’m tempted to walk away from an impediment to opportunity.

Like the raindrops that fall to fill the Cuyahoga River, the moments to act that we let go today are as irretrievable as water over the dam.

Theresa Montgomery is a senior newspaper journalism major and columnist for the Summer Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].