I don’t believe in coincidences. It is my opinion that everything we encounter is part of a larger plan. Things happen for a reason. In my case, I believe it is the Hand of God that puts us in places and situations for His reasons and His purposes. Some may call it fate and contribute the things that occur in their lives to something other than God. No one can judge you for that. At least they shouldn’t. I am still amazed when answers come for questions I have when I least expect it. My life is a mere speck in our universe. Yet as small as I am, my God in His infinite wisdom seems to know exactly what I need and when I need it.

This week one of those occurrences happened in my life that made me smile and say, “Wow.” For the past several weeks, I have been considering pursuing additional professional responsibilities. I’ve reached out to several people in my life that I love and trust for advice and counsel. Each of them responded without hesitation. The people I looked too were not people that would tell me what I want to hear. They were people that would tell me what I need to hear.

We all have friends like that. If you don’t, you should. It was with respect I listened to them and pondered their advice. At the same time, I hoped and prayed for clarification from my Maker.

During lunch one day this week, I ran in to Gene and Yvonne Norton. When I was growing up in the Keithsburg Community, they were our neighbors. Many times, when we would ride by their house headed to town, they would be working in their yard. They would wave. We would wave. Mama or Daddy would always say, “Them’s good people.” If my parents said they were good people, they were.

As long as I have known them, our conversations have been few and limited. This time was different. For whatever reason I wanted to know more. So, I pretty much interrupted their meal. I did apologize for the interruption but continued asking questions. I asked Mrs. Norton where she was raised and what her maiden name was. She told me she was raised in Ball Ground, she was a Harris, and was the youngest of nine children. Sadly, she is the last of her siblings still alive. Mrs. Norton told me while her husband was working, she worked raising the kids and keeping the home. The smile on her face as she shared this with me told me she felt blessed in having that opportunity.

Mr. Norton spent 53 years in education. During those years, he was also the school superintendent in Cherokee County. He told me he only served one term. When I asked him why, he said he didn’t care much for the politics. Another opportunity arose in education and he jumped at it. Mr. Norton was raised in the Mill Village with his brothers, Harold and Butch. This village houses Riverdale Baptist Church where Mr. and Mrs. Norton worship to this day. Harold was active at North Canton Baptist Church while their brother Butch worships at Hopewell Baptist. After 53 years, Mr. Norton retired and spent time with his brother Harold that was battling cancer. He said retirement gave him a good six months with his brother

before Harold passed. About three months before Harold died, he wanted to go deer hunting. Mr. Norton said he took him with the understanding that if Harold started running a fever, they were coming home. Harold killed a deer. The next morning, the fever came. Three months later, he was gone. Mr. Norton stressed the importance of that six months with his brother because of retirement. Because of retirement, I got precious hours with my Daddy I would have never had.

Opportunities are humbling. They reinforce our worth. But they aren’t always meant to take. I’ve lost opportunities due to my actions. Even so, God has opened new doors for me to minister and share my faith. To close those doors seeking other opportunities, even for a brief period, would be wrong. Because of the kindness of the Nortons talking with me, I found clarification. I walked away with a smile and said, “Wow!” People will never look at my life like they do the Nortons’. They shouldn’t. But following His plan can lead to a better version of me.

Chris Collett is a longtime resident of Cherokee County.

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