This last year I began thinking a lot about opportunities. The idea of opportunities. I came to realize that any day I was allowed to wake up to would be full of opportunities. While this isn’t a shocking revelation, I guess I just hadn’t thought of things in that way. I could paint if I wanted, I had the materials. Or not. I could go for a walk, or not. Go the library, or not. Look for a job, or not. Be kind with this one or that one, in this or that situation, under these or those circumstances, or not. I could go to bed early. I could stay up late. I could exercise, or eat ice cream, or exercise and reward myself with ice cream. Or fast. Opportunity after opportunity, and the more I looked for them the more I saw.
A week or so ago the word “Invitation” floated into my mind. Out of nowhere. I’m sitting there doing something and then I am thinking about invitations. I have recently been working on a little experiment to see if I can call forth things in the day. Help them come to me. Think about getting a call from someone out of the blue, long not heard from, think about it really hard, then wait for the call. And it comes. Decide I was going to hear a Foreigner song, then turn on the car radio, move through the dial once, and at the end, “Double Vision”. Like that. Not always, but more often than not. So on this particular day, when the idea of an invitaion visited me unexpectedly, I decided that I would get an invitaion that day. My only job was to pay close attention. I went through the day, last Saturday in fact, trying to pay attention. I can honestly say only once in the moment did I actually think “this is an invitation”. At the end of a walk I went further than I had planned and came to a bridge on the Reed College campus and looked down on a wonderful nature area which most certainly invited me to come on down and walk it, and I did. My wife Susan asked me to spend some quality alone time with her in the afternoon and I did, though I only recocnized that as an invitation much later. Then it was dinner time and Susan and I went to one of my favorite Mexican restaurants. We were on our way to an art opening, I had been “invited” by a fellow Portland artist, and we parked in the Fred Meyer parking lot (it’s a chain grocery store), walked through the store and then out and across Hawthorne to eat. Just outside the Fred Meyer door were two people looking for money: a guy selling “Street Roots”, a paper that supports the homeless in the Northwest, and a young girl with a sign which I glanced at and didn’t register. We walked by, crossed the street, ordered our food, and while waiting I said to Susan that the girl would be smarter to move to another corner because the guy had something to give, and she didn’t. Sure enough, when we crossed the street to walk back into the store and do our shopping Susan went to the guy and gave him a dollar for the paper. I was behind her and as I passed the girl she said, just loud enough for the universe and only me to hear, “please”. I just went into the store. We shopped and then had time to use before the gallery opening so we went to a bookstore. Susan was looking for a specific book and I just loitered in the spirtuality section. The longer I was there the more I felt, actually very strongly felt, I should have given the girl a dollar. I had seven dollars, I could have afforded it.
Let me say here that I offer absolutely no opinion on whether people should give money to people asking on the street or not. Your choice. Often I do, just as often I don’t.
When we left the bookstore I told Susan I wanted to go back to the entrance of Freddie’s and we did. The girl was gone.
Sunday morning early, after I had meditated and made coffee and was reading an art book while sitting in the recliner, everyone else asleep, the thought, the knowing, the absolute certainty came charging into my head that that girl was my invitation, the one I had called into my day. I knew she would come, and yet when she was right in front of me I didn’t even notice. Twice.
Tears came into my eyes, all on their own, and I made a vow that from then forward I would do a better job when the opportunity came, when the invitations come, to pay better attention, to honor attention, and do what I ask for the chance to do
Accept the invitation.