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God’s Three Buttons
A poor man who had tasted bitter failure at all his endeavors in life died of old age, and arrived at the gates of Heaven. Disappointed and somewhat angry at the fate he had been given, he walked up to God and asked, “Is it true that you have no special preferences among the people in the land of the living?”
God smiled down at him and replied, “Why, of course, as you are all my children.”
The poor man was indignant, “Then why is it that some people are given so much more in life than others?” He demanded, “What had I done to deserve such a horrible life, with not even one small taste of success?”
God examined the poor man for a moment, and then said in his fatherly way, “Come, let me show you something, my son.”
He led the poor man into a large room filled with bookshelves stacked to the ceiling with small brown envelopes, each with a name written on a white sticker The entire room looked like a huge filing cabinet.
“This,” God explained to the poor man, “Is the filing cabinet of the universe; it has all the information of everything that: is, has been, and will be existing in the universe.”
The poor man looked in awe at all the bookshelves, taller than the tallest skyscrapers he had seen in his life time, stretching endlessly in all directions, until they were hidden by shadows. “Wow.” He whispered. He had never expected to see anything so magnificent in his life.
Then God pointed toward the sky, and the poor man glanced up to see a large, flawless, dome-shaped screen.
God looked slowly up and down a bookshelf at the millions of the envelopes filed in alphabetical order, and finally pulled out the one that said the poor man’s name on the white sticker.
“There we go.” He said as he took out a small, round plate that somewhat resembled a C.D, “This plate holds all the important moments of your life. Now, let us watch it”
Carefully, God inserted the disk into a small slot at the base of the bookshelf, and pressed the play button beside the slot. On the rights side of the slot the slot, there were five peculiar golden buttons.
“Now, look up.” God told the poor man.
The poor man did as he was told, and the world around him began to spin. It span faster and faster and faster until finally, he landed at a place that looked very, very familiar. Suddenly, he remembered.
He was fifteen years old. His father had died and he was left with the responsibility to help his mother put bread on the table for his younger siblings. He decided to sell some of his art work on the busy streets of the center of the city. One day, he was sitting as his usual at the small corner where he had on display all his best art work, when an old man came. The old man looked approvingly from one piece of art to another, then nodded his head and said, “Young man, I see in you great potential as an artist. Unfortunately, I don’t have much money with me at the moment, but if you would sell me this portrait for all that I have today, I promise that you will hear back from me.”
Here, one of the golden buttons on the right side of the screen lighted.
“Ah,” God sighed, “I see that this is your first opportunity at success, but you have haplessly missed it.”
“What do you mean? Why did that button light up all of a sudden?” The poor man asked.
“Why, the buttons here are the chances you are given in life. Everyone is given three chances when they are born into the world.” God explained matter-of-factly, “However, it is also possible to find chances in your surroundings-”
“Wait!” The poor man interrupted, “I’m afraid I don’t understand this concept of chances!”
“Well, chances…opportunities…Is that not what you asked me? Whether people are all given equal chances of living a happy life.” God replied, “Here, I am showing you that you are all equal in terms of opportunities.”
“Still-” The poor man began, but God waved his hand and pressed the golden button, “This is what would have happened if you had chosen to grasp this chance.”
The poor man was hurled back again to the corner where all his art was displayed. He saw the old man give him twenty dollars and walking away happily with the portrait. Not a few weeks later, he received a letter addressed to him from a prestigious art studio. It requested a few samples of art for the newest issue of a magazine, and asked if he was interested in displaying his art at a recent gallery.
He continued to walk down the path of greatness, and eventually became a renowned, successful artist.
But he had not grasped that chance.
God pushed the play button, “This is what you had chosen to do instead, as you thought that twenty dollars wasn’t enough.”
The poor man, filled with regret, watched as the younger version of himself, too greedy for his own good, firmly refused the offer. He sold the portrait instead to a woman who agreed to pay five more dollars for it later in the evening. Nothing came of this exchange, and the young man eventually gave up on his artistic endeavors.
His life continued. Seven years passed, and he was working as a desk clerk for a small business owned by his uncle.
The young man was hard working and very clever. Not long after he started the job, his uncle came to like him very much, and saw great potential in his business skills. Now, his uncle was already an old man, and had considered retirement for a long time. The old man decided to hand the business over to his favorite niece.
One day, the young man was called into his uncle’s office.
“My dear niece,” his uncle began, “I am old now, and would greatly welcome your company. If you would…stay here in this business of mine and work-” (Here, another golden button lighted, but God ignored it)
“Uncle,” the young man cut off, unable to hear the implications behind his uncle’s words, “I can’t stay here forever! I have my own goals in life!”
“Do you not like this business enough to work it your life time?” His uncle’s voice sounded rather disappointed.
The young man, who was still too dense to comprehend, shook his head fervently.
The poor man, who watched this go on helplessly was overcome with regret. If only he had listened more carefully to his uncle’s words, if only he had been patient enough to let his uncle finish speaking! But alas, he did not! How deeply he regretted it!
In the end, his uncle sold the business to another man.
Finally, God pressed the golden button, and said, “This is what would have happened if you had agreed to take over the business.”
The poor man was once again hurled to the future that should have been. As an ambitious young man, he devoted all his energy into this business that his uncle had given him, and eventually, it grew bigger and bigger. Ten years later, he was a successful, rich, and prominent businessman.
“Now, let us continue.” God said and pressed the play button again.
“Stop!” The poor man exclaimed, “I simply can’t take this anymore! Please make it stop!”
God made a silence gesture and said, gently, “I know that you have come to understand. But do not dwell upon your mistakes, my son, for everyone makes them. The mistakes you have made in the past will be of use to you in the future…Shall we continue?”
The poor man swallowed and attempted to shake off some beads of sweat that had accumulated on his forehead, then looked up at God nodded his head firmly.
So he was in the past again, now he was a man thirty years of age, with a wife and a baby son. One day, a close friend of his, who was thinking of starting a small company, came to him requesting some financial aid. He was told that if he agreed to supply some capital, he would be given a fair share of stocks from this company. But this time he refused without giving it a second thought, as he had already had his fraction of failures at attempts to make money. In the end, the company was never started.
The last golden button on the wall lighted, and this time, the man pressed it himself.
Just as expected, the company that his friend asked for his investment in became very successful. Had he agreed to help out his friend just a little, he would have not only strengthened a worthy friendship, but also become a millionaire.
Now the poor man truly understood what God was trying to tell him.
“Will I be given a second chance at life?” He asked God.
“Of course, my son,” God replied, “Everyone is given second chances, no matter how many mistakes they make.”
The poor man nodded, grateful.
And then he turned to walk into the gates of heaven, not as a poor man, but as a content one.