September 1, 2013
Online Journal - Seizing the Opportunity to do Good
Dennis Marshall, General Vice-President/Director of Education, Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada

An interesting thing happened to me recently in a parking lot in Brooklyn, NY.  The parking lot was full, but I randomly chose an aisle to drive down to see if by chance there was a vacant space.  Surprisingly, I drove past one, but before I could reverse into it, another car quickly drove in and occupied the spot that I thought was mine.   I was upset, but the driver of the other car was insensitive to my feelings; she saw an opportunity and she aggressively seized it.
The Apostle Paul’s Injunction
The apostle Paul makes a pertinent statement about taking advantage of opportunities that come our way.  “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Gal. 6:10) A similar injunction is given in Ephesians 5:15-16: “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise,  making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”
Classroom teachers and school administrators are faced daily with many opportunities to do good deeds.  Some opportunities come attractively packaged, but others come disguised in overalls.  We must be observant and discerning.  The extraordinary teacher, motivated by love and compassion, will see value and virtue in heeding the injunction of the apostle Paul despite his/her heavy teaching load and the sacrifice involved.
Opportunities Abound
Some opportunities are easy to embrace, but others are more challenging.   You may encounter in your class a new student with a reading problem or a gifted child who is miles ahead of his peers. What do you do?  How would you maximize the learning opportunity for both learners?
Sometimes opportunities arise that call for whole class participation.   These come in the form of service opportunities: a response to an appeal from ADRA Canada or A Better World or some other charitable organization such as the Canadian Red Cross.  It may be an appeal from the local church to help a distressed family, or it may be a request from a community-based group to clean up the environment, or to participate in an event like The Annual Terry Fox Run for Cancer Research.   Such service opportunities, if embraced, tend to cultivate a spirit of generosity and cohesiveness that may have a transformative effect on students’ attitudes and behavior.
Embracing an Opportunity
The first thing to do when an opportunity appeals to you is to evaluate it.  Ask yourself the following questions:  Is this something that I should invest my time in?  Will it make a positive difference to our children, our school, or our community?  How much time does this require of me? What resources do I need to have to fully exploit this opportunity?
Don’t Hesitate
Having decided to move forward, don’t hesitate to design an action plan to make the most of the opportunity.  Procrastination is the thief of time.  The more you procrastinate about doing something, the less likely you are to do it.  Start immediately with simple steps and progressively work your way up. For example, the child who has a reading deficit can be helped immediately by spending an extra 15 minutes with him before or after school.   Use your influence and creativity to transform problems into opportunities for the glory of God.
Be the Optimist
It is said that the pessimist looks at an opportunity and sees problems; the optimist looks at problems and sees opportunities.  Always be optimistic that the plans you have to do good will come to pass.  Pay no attention to the critics, the naysayers, and the discouragers.  Put the plan before God, for He is in the business of making good things happen.   Be the optimist and you will create an oasis where there is barren ground.
Do Something Memorable
Some opportunities give you the chance to do something great, that is, something that requires a greater sacrifice of your time and resources.  Every teacher should look for at least one such opportunity that will become memorable in the eyes of students, fellow teachers, and parents.  After students graduate and leave their familiar school environment, they will remember little about the curriculum.  What they remember will be the extraordinary experiences you have given them and their classmates: the time when the class contributed to buy a pair of winter boots for a needy student, or the time when they went on a mission trip.
We are in the business of transforming lives for Jesus.  If we think that our primary responsibility is to teach the curriculum so that students can excel intellectually and graduate with high honors, we are  missing the point.  We are in the business of transforming lives for the kingdom of God, and we must embrace every opportunity we have to do good.  Make your new school year one of going the distance to do good things to enhance the lives of students and others to the praise and glory of God.