Straight Paths

I attended the graduation ceremony of a friend of my daughter and we met at Applebee’s afterward to celebrate. His family and I spent time getting acquainted, and I asked his uncle, “So, where do you live and what do you do for a living?” He responded, “I live In New Jersey, but I spend a lot of time working in New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and cities along the eastern seaboard.” Then he asked me, “Where do you live?” To be honest I thought, “How can living in a small rural town in southern Ohio, compare with that?”

Later, in the hotel room, I reflected on my conversation with the young man’s uncle. I thought, maybe more revealing questions to ask someone would be, “Do you live where you are?”; “What do you do with your living?”; or, in the words of the popular expression, “Do you ‘bloom where you are planted?’” Of course you don’t ask such questions of a perfect stranger, but it could potentially be beneficial and profitable to ask these questions of ourselves.

I was immediately mindful of the passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes: “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, and also to eight … if a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it shall lie. He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the wind will not reap … In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening do not withhold your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, either this or that, or whether both alike will be good.” (Ecclesiastes 11:1-6)

Matthew Henry wrote in his commentary on the Book of Ecclesiastes: “Some will say that their sphere of usefulness is low and narrow; they cannot do the good that they see others can, who are in more public stations, and therefore they will sit still and do nothing ... But God says, ‘in the place where the tree falls, or happens to be, there it is shall be, for the benefit of those to which it belongs’… wherever we are, we may find good work to do if we have but the heart to do it… If we stand magnifying every little difficulty and making the worst of it, we shall never go on…”.

Smita Malhotra, M.D., wrote, “Sometimes we have to make the best of our situations and bloom where we are planted … Sometimes our dreams take time … Every step in life prepares you for the next one … Where you are right now is providing you with vital life lessons for your next adventure … Every chapter in your life builds a foundation to launch the next chapter … To truly blossom, you must stop complaining … Look for ways to be a blessing to somebody. Your struggles have prepared you to be in the path of someone that needs what you can give … You can choose to be a blessing despite your own circumstances and in doing so, inspire the lives of many others … So you might as well attach yourself to your higher purpose and give it your best … Even if you find yourself planted under some concrete at the moment, look for the crack in the concrete to find your way out. And despite all odds, choose to bloom anyway.” (Huffington Post; The Blog, 7/21/14)

Brent, my friend and Christian brother, wrote the following for the introduction of my book, “Straight Paths”: “I truly believe that every opportunity in life, good or bad, anticipated or unexpected, no matter how small, presents renewed opportunity born of itself … Some of the most unlikely jobs I’ve ever had have always equipped me with some sort of new skill set … Working in lumber yards gave me practical organizational and critical thinking skills, bagging groceries helped me to engage the public and think on my feet and so on … A new skill always developed from an unlikely opportunity, skills I now use in the classroom as a teacher and lecturer. Small opportunities inform future opportunities … This is how I believe God works.”

In conclusion, I leave you with some quotes from Mike Rowe, that modern-day philosopher and star of the TV show, “Dirtiest Jobs”: “Happiness does not come from a job. It comes from knowing what you truly value and behaving in a way that’s consistent with those beliefs”; “Job satisfaction has less to do with what you do and more to do with who you are … Some jobs pay better, some jobs smell better, and some jobs have no business being treated like careers. But work is never the enemy, regardless of the wage. Because somewhere between the job and the paycheck, there’s still a thing called opportunity, and that’s what people need to pursue.”

“The reason a lot of people do not recognize opportunity is because it usually goes around wearing overalls looking like hard work.” (Thomas A. Edison)

Loren Hardin is a social worker with SOMC-Hospice and can be reached at 740-357-6091 or at You can order Loren’s book, “Straight Paths: Insights for living from those who have finished the course,” at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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