A few years ago, I had to plan an activity for a youth group, followed by a talk. Little did I know that after the game, the true meaning of what happened would come to light.
Wanting to be original, I devised a game where a hamper, filled with chocolate bars and candy, sat on a table. Everybody wanted it. There was only one problem. It was locked and required a key to open it. I told the participants that their objective was to find the key to open the lock. They had one hour. I supplied them with a sheet with clues and told them that there were twenty keys outside in the neighborhood. Other than that there were no other rules to the game. They could organize themselves in any way they chose.
When we started, some formed groups with their friends, some chose to search alone and one person decided not to participate. The neighborhood was filled with kids scurrying around.
At the end of the hour, one group had found eight of the keys, another five and the rest were divided among the others. Of course, the person who decided not to participate had none.
The time came to see whose key opened the lock. The group with eight tried all of theirs, but none worked. Those who had five were unsuccessful too. One of the groups who had fewer had the key that opened the lock to the treasure.
The two groups who had gathered the most keys complained that the game was not fair. After all, they had gotten the most keys. I had to agree with them and muttered some cliché that life was often like this. Did they expect life to be fair?
Then I began my talk.
I explained that in life we often set our sights on treasures. They usually take keys to open. The keys may be things like a certain level of education, courses on various subjects, physical strength, an honest character, even good looks. There are many more keys to success that you can imagine.
In life, we can choose to look for keys any way we want. The more we cooperate with others and work with them, the greater our chances of getting more keys. If we work alone though, it is still possible to get keys. However, if we refuse to participate, the chances of getting the key that will open our treasure will be zero.
Although the number of keys that you get doesn't guarantee success, it will increase your chances of opening the treasure. Still, a person with only one key does have a chance of opening the treasure you want. Although it doesn't seem fair, life is like this.
Then it struck me. Right in the middle of my talk, I understood something I had never understood before. The groups that had complained that they had lots of keys, but had lost the treasure had missed the point, and so had I.
Yes, not one of their keys had opened the treasure. But, they still had lots of keys. The game was not over. They still had the keys. There must be locks out there somewhere that contained other treasures that could be unlocked by these keys.
The first part of the game was accumulating as many keys as possible, but that did not guarantee the first lock that was encountered would be opened by one of them. What is important is the second phase. If your treasure isn't opened on the first try, you must look for other locks.
Perhaps the job you really wanted was given to somebody else. Maybe the girl of your dreams can't return the same affection. What you have to realize is that the gifts that you have been given, have worked for and found, the keys, will eventually open up your treasure as long as you keep looking. Sitting around complaining that your keys didn't open up the first treasure you sought won't do any good. You have to keep looking for the treasures that fit your keys. Otherwise you will live a life full of regret and unfulfilled potential. You will always be looking back at what might have been instead of what will be.
Yes, there is a treasure out there just for you. Just keep looking and keep collecting those keys, then look for the locks they will open.
-- John Stevens
John Stevens is a creative, "idea" person from St. Marys, Ontario, Canada, who does some freelance writing. He is filling his time with some occasional teaching while looking for his next adventure in life.