The sun was out only what seemed like seconds earlier, but as soon as Thomas stepped onto the restaurant’s patio, the day was overcast and he couldn’t help but think that it wasn’t a good sign. Before he could turn back, though, he heard his name called out from the corner of the patio and felt compelled to follow the voice he heard.
There was only one person out there with him. A person much younger than he expected, which he thought was odd because he didn’t know who he expected at all. A person he had never seen before. And although he had never seen him before, the stranger felt somewhat familiar, as if he knew Thomas well regardless of how well Thomas knew him. It was because of this feeling that Thomas decided it was worthwhile to ignore the dark skies and ignore the fact that he had no idea who the stranger was and went to have a seat across from him.
“Alright, I’ve seen the movies,” Thomas declared as he took his seat. “I know how this works. I press a button and get rich but somebody dies or something, right?”
The stranger chuckled. “You should not be so quick to assume you know a situation as soon as you enter it, Thomas.”
“Yeah, but aren’t I right? That’s basically what is supposed to happen.”
The stranger hadn’t moved from sitting rigidly upright. “You are not terribly far off. I will admit that. But you are still quite wrong.”
Thomas nervously leaned forward, ringing his hands together. “Okay then. Where am I wrong?”
“To begin, there is no button to press.”
Thomas laughed and threw himself back in the chair. “This is ridiculous. You’re concerned about the stupid button. Why am I even here?”
The stranger very calmly leaned forward, mimicking Thomas’ previous position. “You are here because you want an opportunity.”
“An opportunity?” Thomas continued to lean back in his chair, almost as an act of indignation against the serious nature of the stranger across from him. “Yeah, I don’t know if I would call this an opportunity. I feel like if, I don’t know, if I saw somebody getting their purse stolen and the thief ran right past me, that’s what I would call an opportunity. This doesn’t exactly feel like an opportunity.”
“What does it feel like, Thomas?” The stranger’s voice was calm, but not emotionless. It wasn’t like Thomas was engaging with a robot. It felt to him more like he was speaking to an elementary school principal. One who held authority, but was speaking to somebody who had no idea what authority felt like.
“I don’t know what it feels like. It feels like….it feels like I’m an idiot for sitting here right now.”
Thomas made a move to get up from his chair but hesitated. He expected the stranger to make any sort of move at all, but was greeted with nothing of the sort. Instead, it was Thomas who stopped was he was doing and turned back to look at his companion. And his companion wasn’t even making eye contact.
“You have not heard what the offer is.”
Thomas sat down, feeling more and more like a child who was scolded for trying to run away when he shouldn’t. He didn’t feel like looking the stranger in the eye. “Okay,” he said with all the strength of a broken man. “What is the offer?”
Thomas looked up, confused. He hadn’t noticed it, but the stranger had leaned back again, his hands resting on the arms of his chair. He had what seemed to be an aura about him; one that was intimidating but strangely freeing. Thomas felt as though the stranger, who was staring at him now, was staring into his soul and seeing everything Thomas had to offer. And through it all, Thomas felt as though the stranger didn’t mind what he was looking at.
The stranger continued talking before Thomas even realized he had failed to open his mouth.
“I will not offer you money, as you incorrectly assumed earlier. I will offer you the world. I will give you opportunities. Limitless opportunities.”
“So wait, I’m supposed to rule the world or something?”
“Not at all. I am not giving you control. Rather, I am giving you the chance to give up all control.”
Thomas again let out an indignant chuckle. “Oh yeah? How exactly is giving up control supposed to be an opportunity like you say it is?”
Without warning, a lady Thomas hadn’t noticed yet cried out on the sidewalk next to them. “My purse!” she screamed, “That man just stole my purse!”
Thomas looked at the stranger dumbfounded. The stranger, however, had cracked a smile, the first sign of emotion he had shown.
Thomas jumped out of his chair. The stranger’s calm voice followed him. “She will be fine. Have a seat.”
As he spoke, a man tackled the thief. The purse was secure, and Thomas was rattled. He sputtered over the beginnings of a few words without being able to get anything out, so the stranger cut him off.
“You should consider what you think of as opportunity,” he said, while leaning forward and using a fine cloth from his pocket to wipe off his glasses. “Do you have control over whether or not a woman’s purse is taken from her?”
“Precisely. And you do not have control over whether or not you are even there when it happens. So opportunity happens when you give up all control. It is not something where you can dictate what happens or when it happens. It is simply a chance, a moment in time, in which you have a decision to make on how to act. Opportunity is a gift. One I can give.”
Thomas put his elbows on the table, getting closer to the stranger. “What you’re saying….it sounds abstract. You’re offering me, what, just random chances? I already have those.”
“Not like I can offer. You see, Thomas, I can give you all of the chances that the world holds. I can give you life, fully. Life that has all untold limitless amounts of opportunities. There will be opportunities to make money, yes, but there will be opportunities to give money to those who are in need. There are opportunities to travel, but also opportunities to fall deeply in love with the community around you.”
“I already have those opportunities, though. What you’re offering still isn’t concrete.”
“Look at your life. Look at it genuinely and honestly. You have a job you do not like, an apartment that you hate living in, and friends who ignore you more and more with each passing day. You are not satisfied with where your life is right now. Opportunities are not coming for you, Thomas. You have a little bubble that you will never escape from unless you agree to what I can offer.”
His words cut deeply, but Thomas knew they were true. His job was secure, sure, but he hated it. It didn’t offer any fulfillment. His social circle was certainly shrinking rapidly. Perhaps what the stranger said was true. Perhaps opportunity wasn’t coming for him at all.
“So what you’re saying is that if I agree to whatever it is you are offering, my life will change? It will get better?”
“Change is what opportunity does, Thomas. Some of the changes will not work out quite like you think they will. Not every one of them will be good, but many will. The only thing I can promise for sure is that things will change. They will change drastically. Do you want change?”
Thomas looked at the ground. He did. He was so tired of where he was. He knew that this change was really what he wanted. He knew that it wasn’t money or power or sex that he craved. It was simply change. The stranger actually had looked deeply into his life, and he knew exactly what Thomas wanted the most.
The answer barely found its way out of Thomas’ mouth. “Yes.” He cleared his throat to sound less defeated. “Yes, I want change. Badly.”
The stranger smiled a warm and comforting smile. One that comes from a dear friend who genuinely cares. “I know you do. That is why I am here. To offer you the change you want. You need. I can not promise that everything will always be fun or easy, but I can promise to you right now that what I am offering will ultimately be good for you. It will bring change. Opportunity.”
“So what’s the cost? Is it something where somebody random dies? Because I’ve thought about the risks. I am prepared for them.”
“No, Thomas. The cost is greater than that.”
“Than somebody dying? What in the world is a bigger cost than that?”
This confused him desperately. The stranger had mentioned control earlier, but this newest mention of the word felt entirely different. It worried Thomas. The stranger continued.
“You see, Thomas, your problem is control. You have set up your bubble because you are afraid of what you do not know. What you do not understand. You live in fear of what you can not control.”
“But I don’t understand. Why is that supposedly so great of a cost?”
“Because, Thomas,” he said while leaning forward to emphasize what he was trying to convey, “I am saying that you will have to give up everything.”
There was silence. “Everything?”
“Yes. Everything. You must be willing to give up the bubble and everything that you currently know and hold on to in order to be given opportunities for change. You must be willing to surrender all control over your own life.”
“I still don’t get it. That sound so….simple.”
“Think about it. Is it really simple? Is it really so simple to look at all that you currently know and be willing to give it up in an instant for the pursuit of something new? Something different?”
At this point, he was staring intensely into Thomas’ eyes. Thomas had no choice but to stare back, suddenly shocked and terrified yet fully at peace with the stranger’s intensity.
“Thomas….would you even be willing to give up the new things offered to you? Would you be willing to even give up control of what happens to everything given to you by these opportunities I promise? Can you release control of what you know and what you do not know yet?”
Was he? Was he really willing to do all of this? Yes, he desperately craved changed. Growth. He desperately needed something new. Something different. He didn’t even care about whether or not it was something better that was given to him. He just needed something new.
But he couldn’t feel comfortable about it. Sitting in that chair, considering where his life was now versus the vast unknown and uncertainty offered to him, he couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed. Really, was his bubble that awful of a thing? His job was terrible, but it was stable. It provided. His friends ignored him, but they were familiar and he at least knew what type of pain to expect from them.
“Thomas, this is my offer. I offer you life. All of the limitless possibilities and opportunities that life can possibly offer to you. Pure, unadulterated life. The only cost is that you must be willing to give all of that life up.”
Thomas froze. Life. All the possibilities. All the changes. But all of them were unknown. And that wasn’t what he wanted, right? He wanted change, but change he could control. He wanted improvement, but the improvement that he chose. He wanted things to be different, but he wanted to keep them the same. So how in the world could he chose? How in the world could he give up comfort and security, because wasn’t that what everyone strives for anyway? How in the world could he really give up all that he had and all that he could control for a future he couldn’t predict?
After all, was a full life really that much better than security?