The other day I heard a friend poking fun at LDS vernacular. Instead of saying “I’m here today to….”, an LDS person would say, “I’m grateful for the opportunity I have to be here with you today…” He was poking fun at the way our speech very quickly becomes convoluted with lots of sweet nothings and an over-usage of that word: opportunity .
When the votes were counted last week on the “The Biggest Loser”, and all of the people staying on the show were in tears at the prospect of Blaine Cotter’s leaving, his words were “You know, I’ve been so grateful for this opportunity.” In that perpetual game for us of “Guess who’s LDS” on television’s reality shows, if every other indicator hadn’t been enough to clue us that he is LDS, that would have been the final tip-off.
This notion that my friend had that somehow we exude silliness by calling everything an “opportunity” was one that made me laugh along; after all, he was a good storyteller, but I don’t agree with him. It’s true we, as a people, call everything from working in the nursery to going through cancer an “opportunity,” but it isn’t a clich, it’s a paradigm that is a freeing concept to live by.
For Latter-day Saints, life isn’t a stream of miserable events, a river of burdens or entitlements, it is instead a series of “opportunities’ and that changes everything.
Living with roommates that I don’t call Mom and Dad for the first time this year has been quite an adjustment for me. Though we haven’t had any major conflicts, we were clearly all raised very differently. If there’s one thing we have in common, though, it’s that, more often than not, when the sink fills up with dishes, all of us feel that it is somebody else’s turn to take care of it.
I have one roommate who loves to bake, but how she manages to dirty up nine large mixing bowls and two to three pots and pans every time she makes a batch of sugar cookies is beyond me. This semester we set up dish nights so that now when five of us feel like it’s someone else’s turn to clean up the ridiculousness, it usually is.
One night this week, one of my roommates (who I wasn’t particularly happy with at that moment) was eating dinner and realized that it was her dish night and began to bemoan that it landed on a night when she didn’t feel good and she had homework and she wanted to be able to just go to bed.
I was a little annoyed at the response, but on a whim I did her dishes for her while she finished dinner. Just by making the decision that the dishes in the sink were not a burden, but an opportunity to serve, I looked at my roommate not as a whiner, but as someone having a hard day who just needed someone to reach out to her. Something that could’ve been another thorn in our relationship became an opportunity to make her feel better and doing those few dishes was no skin off my nose.
We have been given this mortal experience as a gift-an opportunity and I think each of us feels that sense that the things we get have been given to us out of love. Even or especially the trials in our lives are opportunities for growth, so calling every little aspect of that an opportunity isn’t silly, it is an attitude of gratitude, rather than some assumed entitlement.
What my friend, the fun-poker, didn’t acknowledge about this people and their tendency to throw in the word opportunity , is that it isn’t just something to say, but a new way to look at things. It’s the process of changing your view so that you look at life as a gift rather than a given. Changing that one outlook in life is the key to a joyful people, and truly believing it, will fill us with a recognition of chances for serving others. In that we will also find our greatest opportunity to serve God.