When I was a teenager, my mother told me she thought I could be President of the United States. She was completely serious — but, then, she was my mother. As a young man, this goal didn’t seem unreachable. When you are young, all goals seem with reach, no matter how improbable. You could be an NFL quarter back, an famous actor, start your own .com company, cure cancer, invent a better mousetrap. Someone from American Idol or a baseball scout could discover you. You could become the next Walter Cronkite.
At graduation ceremonies, countless students have been told by their class valedictorian in a speech carefully vetted by the principal that each student has it within himself or herself to make amazing things happen. “If you can dream it, you can make it happen,” they are told.
And then … life
For some students, life has already been hard. They don’t do well in school. Perhaps their family is dysfunctional. They are uncoordinated, unattractive, or unpopular. They already know they won’t be President or start a business or cure cancer. They look to their peers with … admiration or envy, and they know they won’t be one of them. They listen to their graduations speech and know the words aren’t for them.
Others find out later. An injury sidelines a promising basketball career. A summa cum laude graduate has difficulty finding a job in her field. An unexpected pregnancy, a car accident, or a youthful indiscretion can derail a promising student. Many dreams lie as wreckage on the shoals of life.
Others have initial success, only to discover as they become older, they haven’t reached their dreams. They watch men and women 20 years their junior whiz past them up the corporate ladder, and they are forced to realize that they are no longer the “golden boy” they were when they started.
And some, a very few, become famous and rich politicians, TV stars, CEOs, or athletes. They grace the covers of the magazines at the checkout lane in the grocery store. They smile at us from a lofty position. They are successful.
But not many
More than 99% of us will remain unknown. Our “10 minutes of fame” may be very modest. Eventually, those of us who never will be rich, never famous, or never powerful, learn to be content with our lot. The poet, Thomas Gray, said it very well:
But lack of success doesn’t mean failure
There are better things
A true and instructive story
I actually know someone who was set to try out for the NFL. He had a good chance, but he was uncomfortable. He felt God was calling him to some other work. On the day of the tryouts, he walked away. He married, had children, and is now completely unknown except for his family, church, and friends.
Some would say he was foolish to throw his chance and riches and fame away, and yet, he is content with “the noiseless tenor of his way.”