On the Corner



I remember at the 1939 World’s Fair on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay they had this demonstration about science in the future. To start it off, the speaker would hold up a five dollar bill, a lot of money in those days–especially when the young boy only has a nickel for a Coke and a dime for the street car after a free ferry ride home. The speaker would say that any one who comes to the front and takes the bill may keep it.

I sat in the audience with my brother — we were around 10 or 11. We just looked at each other and around the room and leaned forward hesitantly. Then, suddenly, this young guy, looked about 14, rushed forward, grabbed the bill out of the speaker’s hand and sat down. If he had been interviewed, I suspect he would have said his name was Cy. I learned right there about what it takes to be in the right place at the right time.

Everyone wants to be at the right place at the right time — to experience something in that moment that is rewarding, gratifying, exciting. Some plan for months to be at just such a place where they know they will have a fortunate encounter. Most others, however, see such a circumstance as a chance event — luck — or even fate.

I’m convinced, however, that there’s a lot more than luck involved. I believe that everyone in the right place at the right time has prepared for the event that transpires. They’re ready. Maybe it’s meeting the boss at just the right moment, saying just the right words that result, a few weeks later, in just the right promotion. Maybe it’s being selected for a particular responsibility and your name just happened to be mentioned at the right time to the right person. But you were prepared — you had the requisite experience, the smarts, the time in — and you had the skill to make a positive impression on the mentioner.

It seems to me what is required to find yourself at the right place at the right time is a “can-do” attitude, basic intelligence, assertion, courage under fire, always showing up, being willing to undertake difficult tasks — in other words, values, attitudes, beliefs, personality, knowledge and skill. This is what makes things happen

Of course, sometimes we end up at the wrong place at the wrong time. A confluence of events occur which deliver unanticipated consequences — consequences which are perceived as negative, embarrassing or even punitive. The events explode upon us in a single moment during which we are significantly unprepared. They demand a level of spontaneity difficult to achieve.

Such an event happened to a father of two boys — Simon of Cyrene. You’ve probably heard a lot about him over the past two years. He was the father of Alexander and Rufus. Cyrene was the principal city of Cyrenaica, a Greek colony in North Africa just west of Egypt. It had an interesting philosophy of life — “pleasure is the only rational aim of life.”

So, this guy Si finds himself on this particular street in Jerusalem just at the moment the Romans have Jesus lugging this cross up to Golgotha. Jesus was exhausted from sleeplessness and torture and collapsed under the weight of the beams. The Romans drafted Si to take over the heavy lifting.

Being smart, Jesus let him.

Now — was Si in the right place at the right time or the wrong place at the wrong time?

And how about you? At this moment in your life — what’s your answer to that question?

Personally, I believe Jesus could have managed the cross if he had wanted. God could have managed it. I believe he selected that place to break down in order to challenge a father of two boys. Simon was willing. There is no comment in scripture that would lead one to think he acted under duress. He showed up. He did the job. I believe God remembered his name.

Will he remember yours? Will you show up with the requisite characteristics when you get to your appointment? (Sometimes, in my grief, I’m tempted to print the names of new officers who don’t show up at their first appointment — but I don’t — because I don’t give up on people.)

All right, you Simons of Cyrene, you “pleasure seekers.” Jesus needs a little help — not with the easy jobs — but the hard ones. Have you got what it takes to fulfill the requirements of your session name?

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