Monday, January 6, 2014


Have you been surprised lately?

A woman called her pastor. "We just won $10 million in the lottery!" she exclaimed. "But I'm afraid to tell my husband. He has a weak heart and I'm afraid he may have a heart attack. Pastor, would you be able to tell him for me?"

The clergyman thought that perhaps he could, so he came right over and sat down with the man. "What would you do," he began, "if you were to win $500,000 in the lottery?"

"I suppose my wife could quit her job and I could work less and relax more," the man reflected.

"What would you do if you were to win a million dollars?" the pastor continued.

"If I were to win that much we could both retire," the man said. "Life would be easy."

The clergyman forged on. "Well, what would you do if you were to win five million dollars?"

"We could do anything we wanted," he mused. "We could travel, live anywhere in the world and enjoy a life we never dreamed was possible."

Finally he got to it. "Now tell me...what would you do if you won ten million dollars in the lottery?"

"Ten million dollars? Why, if I ever won that much, Pastor, I know one thing for sure. I'd give half of it to you and the church."

You guessed it. The pastor had a heart attack.

I don't know if a gift of massive wealth will turn out as wonderful as one might think, but it's probably a good thing that most surprises don't come in such huge helpings. I think I prefer my surprises to come in smaller, bite-sized portions. Even the good ones. And I'm discovering that the world is full of daily, happy surprises, if I just have eyes to see.

Have you noticed that we will tend to see what we look for and miss most of the rest? I once observed a class instructor hold up a large sheet of white paper. It seemed to be clean except for a black dot in the center made by a heavy marker. He asked us to tell him what we saw. Everyone who raised their hand predictably pointed out the black mark, each describing it differently. Then the teacher asked, “Why didn't anyone say they saw a sheet of white paper?”

Was that answer too obvious? Maybe so, but I often miss the obvious because I'm busy looking for something else. I might be surprised at what I can see if I were to actually look for it.

If I search for mistakes in myself or others, I will find enough to keep me critical for a week. Likewise, if I look every day for what is admirable in others, what is pure in myself and what is lovely in the world, all of these things suddenly become obvious. But the large sheet of white paper is easy to miss when I am searching for black smudges.

Confucius taught, “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” And baseball great Yogi Berra added, “You can observe a lot by watching.” It's about what I'm going to look for, and that's enough of a surprise for me.

– Steve Goodier


2 comments: said...

Hello, after your descriptive 'joke'...your story about the 'white sheet ofpaper'' held the thought of what you had written. Kinda like "You can't see the forest for the tress". Different people see things differently, i enjoyed your descriptions of what people see. I guess i should say I feel the message. Enjoyed! thank you, elena

Steve Goodier said...

Thank you, Elena. I'm glad you enjoyed it!