Bonnie Gray over at Faith Barista posed a “what if” challenge last week. Instead of focusing on regrets and the “what might have beens,” she challenged her readers to write down five “what ifs” and then to do one of them. The idea was to follow through on one of your possibilities and see what happened.
Bonnie personally challenged me (via Twitter) to participate, and I said I would if I could think of a “what if” to write about and do.
But there’s a problem.
I don’t do “what might have beens.” I’ve never done “what might have beens.” And perhaps that’s why I’m having such trouble coming up with one “what if,” much less a list of five.
It is an act of courage
to ask what if;
It is an act of self-deception
to ask what might have been.
One looks forward, one
looks backward; both
are ways to view the world.
Both are ways to understand one’s soul.
What if creates possibility;
what might have been celebrates
What if grasps the thought of
what could be,
what might be;
what might have been is gripped
by the memory of what never was.
I did think of examples of what ifs, but not ones that were theoretical.
Some 17 years ago (ancient history, in electronic terms), I tried for months to get the IT Department where I then worked to approve me doing an email newsletter (I told you this was ancient history). For two months I went to these weekly meetings of the “governing council” to plead my case. They wouldn’t say no, but they also wouldn’t say yes. What I was proposing, they darkly hinted, would disrupt the email network, bring the U.S. financial system to a halt and cause the collapse of Western civilization.
And then one day, on my way to yet another council meeting, I had a blinding flash of the obvious. They couldn’t stop me. Short of shutting down the email system, they couldn’t prevent me from sending out an email newsletter.
So what if I sent it out anyway?
So we started by sending out the newsletter to 100 people as a test. Within two weeks, word of mouth had pushed the distribution to 1,500. Within a month, we reached every employee who was on email, about 6,000 at the time, all by word of mouth. And we never advertised its existence. (I also didn’t tell Law or Human Resources about it either, and that eliminated the need for “review” until the newsletter was so accepted and so established that a “review” wasn’t needed.) (“Review” is the polite word for “censorship.”)
Call it a blessing or a curse, or both, but I don’t deal in what might have beens. I never have. There are plenty of mistakes I’ve made that I’ve regretted or repented, but I’ve never dwelt in the land of what might have beens. And it’s odd, too, because my introverted nature would tend to lead me in that direction.
I think I’ve flunked the “What If Challenge.”
Perhaps it is a gift,
the gift of faith, or
perhaps it is a blessing,
the blessing to encourage
(for to encourage is to be
to ask only what if, and
never what might have been.
(To see more posts on the “What If Challenge,” visit Faith Barista.)
"Door," photograph by Nancy Rosback. Used with Permission