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BERRY: Opportunity is this year's word for positive change

• May 3, 2018 at 3:00 PM

Every January, as the calendar rolls into a new year, my wife Amy asks each of our family members to choose a word — just one simple word — to use as a tag for positive change in the upcoming year.

Amy chose the word "spontaneous" because she wants to make room for spontaneity in our lives rather than having every moment planned. Evien chose the word "kind" because she wants to be kinder to her sister. Maggie chose "helpful" because she wants to be more helpful around the house.

I told Amy that I didn't want to pick out a word this year.

"Aw, c'mon," she said. "Just one little word."

"No," I responded, "because what I want I can't have."

"What's that?" she asked.

"I want to have more time off from work so I can go to church every Sunday and spend more time with the family."

Amy just said, "Oh."

Amy has resigned herself to the fact that I work retail. I enjoy what I do. I like working with the public in an unpredictable environment where I can creatively solve each day's problems. In retail, no two days are exactly alike.

However, I work a lot of weekends, and I work when much of the general public has time off. It's the nature of the retail beast.

In a moment of deep self-pity, I told Amy, "I guess God doesn't want me to go to church."

"Why would you say such a thing?" she asked.

"Because I've been praying for Sundays off, but He won't give them to me."

"God doesn't operate that way," Amy said.

"Then I don't know how He operates," I said. "If God made the heavens and the earth, it seems like He could pull a few strings and grant me this one little request."

Amy stayed silent, but I'm sure she was thinking, "Oh, brother, you're so dramatic."

Amy has a friend who owns a condo in Charlevoix. Nobody had rented the condo for the last weekend in February, so she asked us if we'd like to use it. Normally, I would say no because of work obligations, but this time, I took the weekend off and our family took off on a spontaneous trip. Maggie helped pack the car and Evien didn't pick on her sister too much.

Granted, there isn't much going on in Charlevoix in the middle of winter, but we found stuff to do. We found a map in our spacious condo that led us to the famous mushroom houses that were built in Charlevoix in the 1930s and ‘40s.

The houses look like hobbit dwellings and some of them rest on an incline overlooking a lighthouse on Lake Michigan. The lighthouse was minuscule compared to Grand Haven's south pier or Muskegon's Pere Marquette, but water had washed over the railings and froze there, creating small caverns filled with icy stalactites and stalagmites.

We had lunch at Scovies in downtown Charlevoix. Their menu features a BLT with a full pound of bacon. I ordered a half-sandwich so I would only clog half of my arteries. We walked to the Taffy Barrel and bought an odd assortment of unique flavors of taffy including buttered popcorn, hot chocolate and spicy mango.

On the last evening of our mini vacation, after viewing the world's largest cherry pie, we were out of things to do in Charlevoix, so we decided to watch a movie. The girls found a movie on Netflix called "Evan Almighty.” In the movie, Steve Carell, or "Evan,” gets elected to the Senate. The night before his first day on the job, he kneels by his bedside and asks God to help him change the world.

Morgan Freeman as “God” puts him to work building an ark. Evan becomes a modern-day Noah, and the entire country thinks he's a lunatic, including his family. Shortly after leaving him, his wife is encountered by God posing as a waiter in a greasy-spoon diner. This is what he tells her:

"If someone prays for patience, do you think God just gives them patience, or do you think He gives them the opportunity to be patient? If they pray for courage, does He just give them courage, or does He give them the opportunity to be courageous? If someone prays for their family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm, fuzzy feelings, or does He give them opportunities to love each other?"

On the long ride home the next morning, I reached over and took Amy's hand. "I have my word for the year." I said.

"Yeah, what is it?"

"Opportunity."

I told her I was going to stop expecting God to grant my wishes as if he were a genie in a bottle. I said I didn't know why God wouldn't grant me more time off so I could go to church with my family, but there must be a reason.

Amy suggested that maybe I need to set a good example for my crew at work by working weekends. "Maybe it's more important for you to prove you're an effective leader than having weekends off right now."

"Maybe you're right,” I said.

I looked in the rearview mirror at my daughters talking and laughing over some silly app on their phone. "This weekend was a good opportunity." I said.

Amy just looked at me and smiled, nodding in agreement.

— By Grant Berry, Tribune community columnist

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