The older we are the harder it is to change and the more difficult it is to tap into the great potential within us. The situation is often compared to the proverbial pauper who lives and dies as a pauper, never realizing he is carrying in his pocket a priceless jewel. While the precise nature of this "jewel" has been debated, most explanations would include the ability and willingness to change. "To live is to change," said Cardinal Newman, "and to be perfect is to have changed often."
Avoiding change, because of our habits, is all too often the preferred behavior for most, even when circumstances clearly indicate something different needs to be done. "Sometimes," in the words of one popular saying, "you must do the thing you think you cannot do." Most of us would agree, but when habits are life-long, we easily find reasons to justify our habitual ways of thinking and doing--the change is too unfamiliar or threatening, too uninteresting, a waste of time or money, or both; I'm not capable; I'd rather play it safe.
Having convinced ourselves that our habitual ways are right, at least for us, we spend a great deal of time living passively: watching TV, listening to music, or whatever else does not require our doing anything differently. By sticking with this robotic lifestyle, we fail to see the many opportunities that would uncover our potential in doing something different, doing more, doing better. The learning experiences that then would become available would help us grow into that potential that lies buried within us. An especially important learning experience can be found in cooperative doing; working with others in any joint venture builds community, and everyone is strengthened in the process.
Our mission station community recently decided, with some hesitation, to take on the responsibility of remodeling the community bathroom ourselves; a contractor would not be hired. Today twelve men came to work on the project. The women were also involved, both in the work and in the kitchen. Not only are we remodeling a bathroom together, but we are coming together as a community of partners, and learning something about ourselves and each other that we did not know before. We should be a better community for this shared doing. When the project is completed, we can take satisfaction in having done something difficult but worthwhile. Not only was money saved, but the cooperative effort brought to our awareness some of the unexpected potential within each of us that normally lies hidden from view.