OPEN DOORS PART ONE: When One Door Closes, Another Door Opens

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A Famous Alexander Graham Bell quote
A Famous Alexander Graham Bell quote
“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” - Alexander Graham Bell

Our cat sat forlornly on the porch today as spring snowflakes filled the air in a late-season storm. She wished the door to the house would reopen and yet an exciting world awaited her.

I think we might approach life at times like a cat, looking forlornly at the past and not even putting enough effort into the powerful present or even our feelings for the future. Don't get me wrong, many of us pour all the available zest and zeal into every day — and yet a discussion of "open doors" and "closed doors" in life can help us.

Consider Alexander Graham Bell for a moment. His invention of the telephone affects humans around the world every day. And he was trying to invent a way of transmitting sound to help those who are deaf. His wife was deaf and he even founded a school for the deaf in Massachusetts while also working at Boston University.

Here's an example of his actual voice back in 1885, when he was yet 38 years old!

But this inventor left a breadcrumb for us today in not becoming stuck in our mind on closed doors in life but instead to relentlessly look for open ones.

This recently was brought home to me by a loved one who had quit a job that didn't fit right and who said to me, “When one door closes another door opens." That very same day, a talent scout connected with her and interviewed her for another position!

This caused me to think of some closed doors in my life — some even long into the past — and what open doors they actually have led to. You see, if we listen to and apply Alexander Graham Bell's advice, we will see the benefit of things that come after a closed door. For him, it included inventions and insights that could change the world. For us, I'm confident that those future open doors that actually result from closed ones can change our lives and the lives of others.

As you think about closed and open doors in your life, I’d ask you to create a list of a few of the more-famous (or perhaps infamous) closed doors in your life. This introspective activity can be very helpful because it reveals what you may view as either a turning point or even a sticking point.

The snow is falling more fiercely now - a spring squall that will sure make the warm weather in a few days be a welcomed relief. Funny how perspective is all it takes sometimes to change a hard experience into a good one or even great one.

While better weather will soon come, I can’t help but focus on the bitter wind pounding and the cold sleet pelting all around me. It really makes me feel ashamed as I think of how much suffering is indeed in this world and how petty my own complaints really are in face of such hard experiences. With chagrin, I straighten my hunched back and remember that every day is a Positive day, a day for Hope, a day for Discovery.

As I ponder some famous (at least to me) closed doors in my life, they bring calm to a sometimes stormy world. Two of these closed doors were from planes as I boarded and left somewhere in order to go somewhere else. And one of these closed doors was somewhat of an open door as long as I kept my heart teachable.

Here they are:

Door One: The airplane door of a small Cessna-like plane on the the central Pacific island of Tinian, March 1996. I was in my mid-twenties and just finished my first two years of teaching. That time period was a “door” that opened toward finishing my teaching post and leaving an island I had called home.

To me, that door was an emblem not only of finished work, but of completion, courage, redefinition of self, and renewal. I was happy inside as the pilot learned I was leaving “for good” and he then swung the plane around to give me a full panorama and flyover of the island. What a view of the same island where the Enola Gay took off from! (View of Tinian island in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands)

Door One Leads to:

In the future years from there, I grew and refined my teaching craft, continued to a Masters and PhD, and became an education leader.

Door Two: I was leaving the office of my beleaguered boss where I worked in caring for adults with disabilities. I never realized how combative I was until I saw the sorrow in my boss’ face when I apologized for my former ways.

I had just completed some therapy on emotional healing of damaged memories and a “heart change” had occurred. I found many people during that season of life and found the courage and heart to change how I had been in family relationships, work relationships, or even friendships.

Door Two Leads to:

After making amends with my boss, I realized how much I had to be grateful for. Since her door was always open, it helped me complete a process of redefining my own character and values in the way I communicated. I was, and am, so thankful for forgiving hearts from her and others during that time.

Door Three: Another airplane. This time it is just five years ago and my wife and I are flying home from the Middle East where we had met, married, and lived for over 6 years. Wow, time had flown by, but it was time to reconnect with our families.

A new job, new coworkers, a new home, and a renewed way of life would soon begin. We often remind ourselves of how much we have to be thankful for.

Door Three Leads to:

Without knowing the future, we try, aim, and aspire to do our best everywhere we are. The biggest thing we can give each other and those in our lives is our emotional presence of mind, compassion, dedication, and thoughtfulness.

Every day is a gift. We are the ones with the gift so it’s our job to share it.

This article has looked very briefly at some closed doors in my life. I did not spend a lot of time looking backward at them when they occurred (even though change was hard each time). But the lesson to you and to me is that the changes that came were all beneficial.

I encourage you to look at the “famous closed doors” of your life and ponder a bit about what came as a result of them. I trust that you will find, as I have, that the road ahead after these closed doors has always been more focused, fulfilled, and now can be called even more “famous” as a result.

In Part Two of this series, we will look more deeply at the idea of open and closed doors in life, their lessons, and overall significance.

Dr. Jonathan Doll often writes on issues of wellness, educational impact, and hope. He wrote a chapter in the book, Closing the Education Achievement Gaps for African Males. Also, he recently published a story about his amazing mom in the Chicken Soup for the Soul (2017) series on Best Mom’s Ever.

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