Taking Chances, Making
by Steve Goodier
Lecturer Charles Hobbs sometimes tells about a woman who lived in London over a
century ago. She saved what little money she could working as a scullery maid
and used it one evening to hear a great speaker of her day. His speech moved her
deeply and she waited to visit with him afterward. "How fine it must be to have
had the opportunities you have had in life," she said.
"My dear lady," he replied, "have you never received an opportunity?"
"Not me. I have never had a chance," she said. "What do you do?" the speaker
She answered, "I peel onions and potatoes in my sister's boarding house."
"How long have you been doing this?" he pursued. "Fifteen miserable years!"
"And where do you sit?" he continued.
"Why, on the bottom step in the kitchen." She looked puzzled.
"And where do you put your feet?"
"On the floor," she answered, more puzzled.
"What is the floor?"
"It is glazed brick."
Then he said, "My dear lady, I will give you an assignment today. I want you to
write me a letter about the brick."
Against her protests about being a poor writer, he made her promise to complete
The next day, as she sat down to peel onions, she gazed at the brick floor. That
evening she pulled one loose, took it to a brick factory and asked the owner to
explain to her how bricks were made.
Still not satisfied, she went to a library and found a book on bricks. She
learned that 120 different kinds of brick and tile were being produced in
England at the time. She discovered how clay beds, which existed for millions of
years, were formed. Her research captivated her imagination and she spent every
spare moment learning more. She returned to the library night after night and
this woman, who never had a chance, gradually began to climb the steps of
After months of study, she set out to write her letter as promised. She sent a
36-page document about the brick in her kitchen and, to her surprise, she
received a letter back. Enclosed was payment for her research. He had published
her letter! And along with the money came a new assignment - this time he asked
her to write about what she found underneath the brick.
For the first time in her life she could hardly wait to get back to the kitchen!
She pulled up the brick and there was an ant. She held it in her hand and
That evening, she hurried back to the library to study ants. She learned that
there were hundreds of different kinds of ants. Some were so small they could
stand on the head of a pin; while others were so large one could feel the weight
of them in one's hand. She started her own ant colony and examined ants
underneath a lens.
Several months later she wrote her findings in a 350-page "letter." It, too, was
eventually published. She soon quit her kitchen job to take up writing.
Before she died, she had traveled to the lands of her dreams and had experienced
more than she ever imagined possible! This is the woman who had never had a
Some people wait for opportunity to come knocking. Here is a person who sought
it out, proving again that we can be more than victims of mere circumstance.
If given a chance, will you take it? If given no chance, can you make one?
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