I heard an old parable once that went something like this...
There were two farmers who lived next door to each other. Over the years, they had helped each other plant and harvest crops, put up hay, and care for livestock. They grew to love each other as brothers, and each was always looking out for the best interests of the other.
One day, as the two farmers stood admiring a new litter of piglets rooting about in the straw in one of the stalls in John's barn, Sam commented on what a fine herd of hogs John would soon be raising.
John nodded. "Yep," he agreed, "God's been real good to me." Then he added, "You know, Sam, if I had a hundred hogs and all your hogs died, I'd give you 50 of mine."
Sam laughed. "But I've only got two hogs, John! Don't you think that'd be a little extravagant, you giving me half your herd - 50 hogs?"
"No," John answered thoughtfully. "You're like a brother to me, Sam, and, if I had a hundred hogs, I'd want to share my wealth with you. I'd give you half."
Sam looked silently at the litter of piglets scampering about the barn stall. "What if you had ten hogs, John? If you had ten hogs, would you give me half then?"
John stiffened and huffed, "That's not a fair question, Sam - you know I actually have ten hogs!" And with that, he turned and stormed out of the barn.
I was reminded of this story recently when a friend was telling me why she couldn't follow through on a commitment she had made. Sally, commendably, had resolved to take the time to get better acquainted with her new neighbor Jane.
"How's it going?" I asked over coffee one morning. "After spending time with Jane, do you feel like you are getting to know her better?"
Sally sighed. "Well, I haven't actually spent any time with Jane...but it's not like I haven't tried!"
"What's been the difficulty?" I asked. "Is Jane too busy to get together? Is she extremely shy? Has she been sick?"
"No, nothing like that," Sally replied. "I thought I'd invite her to a concert at the Performing Arts Center, but the cheapest tickets were nearly $60 - can you believe that?! So I decided to just ask her out for lunch a couple of weeks ago, but I ended up having to buy new sneakers for one of the kids and then I didn't have the money to treat Jane to lunch. Finally, I just figured I'd ask her and her family over for dessert one night, but then I got to thinking - I don't know what kind of food they like, and I don't want to put a lot of work into cooking some fancy dessert just to have them turn their noses up at it!" Sally took a sip of her coffee. "So, anyway, no, my efforts at getting to know Jane better haven't been very productive. It just seems like everything is working against me." She sighed.
"Have you thought about just asking her to take a walk with you around the neighborhood one evening?" I asked.
Sally slammed her mug down on the table. "Well, if you're going to get all snotty with me like that, I can just leave!"
All this to say, sometimes we spend so much time and energy dreaming and talking about what we would do if our circumstances were different (if we had more time, more money, more energy), that we completely neglect to do the little things that we actually can do right now. And while we are blindly letting simple, doable opportunities pass us by, someone like Jane is sitting at home alone, clueless that we've had any thought of her at all.
Don't ask yourself what you would do "if only..."
Ask yourself what you can do, with the resources available to you right now.
Don't wait for a hundred hogs - do what you can do, now.
3 months ago