Great Opportunities from Impossible Situations

We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations. Charles Swindell

This quote describes 2020 so far. As of today (August 21) summer 2020 is two-thirds over, which seems a suitable time for a Summer Summary. What a surreal time this is. For the most part I stay home – partly because my age calls for extra caution to avoid getting and spreading COVID-19, and partly because everything I planned to do is cancelled or moved on-line.

Pre-COVID, my weekly routine included leaving earlier than necessary to participate in morning water aerobics with a small group of friends. I parked in a shady spot to read and organize the day. More mornings than not, a beautiful cardinal perched on my exterior car rear-view mirror. I looked up what some believe it means when cardinals visit us.

If a cardinal comes calling

According to an article by Cat Wilson on, there are a couple of theories. Both seem to fit current 2020 circumstances. She wrote:

One suggestion is that you might be doubting your strengths and the bright red bird is a reminder to check your confidence and move forward no matter the obstacles in your path.

Another belief is that cardinals are spiritual messengers. I have talked with many people who have mentioned seeing cardinals repeatedly after losing a loved one. Perhaps cardinals are sent to let you know that your loved one is still with you.

Good reminders

Both these fit my year so far, a year that has produced one road block after another, leaving me with doubts about whether efforts to write, publish and promote what I write at this late stage of life are worth the effort. Perhaps my days would be better spent reading the piles of books and magazines I have on hand.

It’s been over a year since my brother died. My sister-in-law is a serious bird watcher. Perhaps the cardinal was a reminder that she and I can still connect, though we cannot be together in person. Contact with other family members and friends has been severely limited due to COVID, as I know is the case for so many others. Perhaps these cheery little creatures are indeed messengers of hope and encouragement in a season when I think we all need generous portions of both.

Cardinals regularly visit bird feeders on three sides of the house. Whether they come to encourage more self-confidence, offer consolation for reduced contact with loved ones, or to substitute for the previous early morning cardinal visits, I am grateful for their companionship.

Earlier impossible situations

Back in the 1980s I had to navigate another series of seemingly impossible personal situations. During that stressful time two good things happened that helped me cope. One came in the form of a few words of wisdom from Helen, who was old enough to be my mother. Her advice: “When there’s nothing you can do about a situation, the best thing to do is nothing.”

There’s a whole lot of nothing I can do about the current predicaments of this summer. I must decide which issues belong on the “can’t do anything about it” list and which go on “I could do something about that” side of the ledger. Then I have to consciously decide to ignore those on the first list and invest my time, resources, and energy on the other items. Amazing, this actually yields a fair amount of serenity in the midst of a year that has been one crisis or major let down after another. Seeing cardinals helps.

The second good thing came in the form of a needlepoint a friend gave to me. It’s the quote from Charles Swindell at the start of this blog.

Give Thanks and Give

Research by social scientists indicates two factors, both under our control, impact how good we feel about ourselves and our circumstances. These two factors are gratitude and generosity. We can certainly find reasons to be grateful. For example, while we’re encouraged to wear masks and stay apart, I am thankful for people who sew masks and implement public health precautions. I am also grateful to have access to the virtual tools available to connect with others. And, I’m grateful for cardinals who have found our bird feeders.

This time of pandemic and political uncertainly shall pass. Really it will. As King George sings so eloquently in Hamilton, “Oceans rise, empires fall.” Pandemics, economic downturns and leaders all come and go. Some leaders bless us when they come on the scene. Others when they leave. Either way, life goes on and cardinals visit.

When there’s nothing we can do about a situation, the best thing to do is nothing. When we can do something about a situation, the best thing to do is to go do it. Seemingly impossible situations often turn out to be doorways leading to great new opportunities once we muster the courage to go through the doorway. Who knows? Perhaps a cardinal is waiting to greet us on the other side.

Thank you for taking time to read about great opportunities and impossible situations. Share it with a friend or sign up for your own free subscription at HowWiseThen. I’m always looking for leads about good people doing great things. If you have someone to suggest for a future HowWiseThen blog, let me know. I have a variety of ‘thank you’ resources waiting for you at my website.


  1. Excellent blog reflections. I loved the quotes from Chuck Swindell and Helen. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to the time when we can be together again in person. Peace be with you.

  2. Marilyn Middleton

    Thanks Kathy … nicely done … and encouraging!

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