Rick Warren recently preached a sermon comparing life to a game of poker, highlighting the types of cards life deals. The five he proposes are chemistry, connection, circumstance, conscience, and choices. I would like to highlight the latter card – choices. Choices can be unexpected game changers. When determining someone’s capacity for greatness, Jim Collins in Good to Great claims, “Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice” (11). In other words, a wise poker player, though dealt a bad hand, can still skillfully win the game.
I want to focus on individuals that have demonstrated good conscious choice despite low expectations and who have experienced positive outcomes.
History is made yet again in the United States. For the first time, the winner of the Miss America Pageant is of Indian heritage. As an inspiration and a sign of empowerment to Indian women living in the US and in India, Miss America paves the way for these women to explore nontraditional opportunities beyond their preset cultural norms. In a culture where women are not necessarily encouraged to become international leaders, this pageant win for 24 year old Nina Davuluri provides Indian women everywhere hope to choose dream big dreams and to keep pressing toward them. I’d like to think that some school age little girl believes now more than ever that she can become the CEO of some major company and not think it is weird for her to be a level 5 leader in her culture. In all, the fact that the new Miss America made a conscious choice to go for her dream and not allow her native expectations to deter her is something to be celebrated by many, especially young aspiring Indian women.
Although it was a very dark and confusing time in US, the Civil Rights Movement gave us a snapshot of the little girl, Condoleezza Rice. After the disturbing bombing of a church by the KKK in Birmingham, Alabama, where several little girls lost their lives while in Sunday school. There were other children attending the church that day as well. One of which was Condoleezza, who would later choose to pursue education and politics to inspire African Americans and women in her era and everywhere to do what they are passionate about in life and to overcome adversity while maintaining dignity. Today, as the Provost at Stanford University, Dr. Rice is impacting civil liberties through students. She is now helping to give voice to their dreams and callings. Surely, there are days when Dr. Rice reflects back to that day when that bomb detonated, possibly thinking that she could have perished at the hand of racists. She could have lived a very bitter and fearful life, afraid to venture out as a black woman. However, she has chosen to invest her life in positive causes. She has the privilege of helping others of many descents nurture their callings to impact others via medicine, agriculture, education, and spirituality. Her early circumstances could have put a damper on her dreams, but she chose to listen to the advice of her parents and still venture out and live a full life.
In closing, the hand that life deals can be challenging. And although God has a role in it all, we have a role to play too. That is to be intentional about making wise choices. While there are some areas in life we cannot change, many areas are directly related to our conscious choices. Sometimes that choice looks like you embracing opportunities that require courage and determination. Good results often follow.