Opportunity Is Our Entitlement
Open the door and pull it in
Do you belong to the opportunity society or the entitlement society?
Those are the rhetorical poles of this year’s presidential election, and like magnets, they supposedly push us apart.
Put those buzz words in a different order, and we could discover a society entitled to opportunity.
That’s a slogan we could all work with. Maybe we already do.
Isn’t universal education an entitlement to opportunity?
Isn’t entitlement to opportunity the message of our Declaration of Independence?
Sounds that way to me. But entitlement or not, you and opportunity have got to get close and personal to make the swell-sounding abstraction come to life. You’ve got to hear opportunity knocking, open the door and pull it in.
People who did just that are all over this mid-September issue Bay Weekly.
I’m talking about Clark Rachfal, the 29-year-old Annapolitan just back from Paralympic competition in London. Pedaling behind pilot-partner Dave Swanson, Rachfal is a 60mph man. His blindness is not a handicap of legs, heart or will.
His blinding speed emerged because opportunity knocked. There was nothing deliberate about it, Rachfal told Bay Weekly reporter Ashley Brotherton.
In one of fate’s odd synchronicities, a player on the Australian Blind Cricket Team introduced Rachfal to the U.S. Association for Blind Athletes and the Paralympics.
“I looked into the sports offered, and cycling jumped out,” Rachfal said. “I’d get to be outdoors, and I thought of all of the places the pros race their bikes — Italy, France, Spain. I could do this.”
He was right. He could. Read Rachfal and Brotherton’s Bay Weekly conversation to learn just how far he and opportunity have cycled together on a road with no end in sight.
You get to read this story because Brotherton opened her own door to opportunity’s knock. A good journalism teacher at Anne Arundel Community College cracked the door. After Brotherton walked through that door, the path got tougher. Getting accepted into University of Maryland’s School of Journalism. Taking classes where a misspelled name meant an automatic F. Learning to write on deadline. Conquering nerves, migraines and inertia.
Like Rachfal’s, her entitlement to opportunity was a guarantee to sweat.
Brotherton earned her degree in May. Without another of fate’s synchronicities, she could still be a full-time waitress. Instead, she caught a ride on Bay Weekly, joining our journey at the 19-year mark.
It had been five years since the last time we’d advertised for a writer, when her grandmother saw our Help Wanted. Brotherton applied, and everything she’d learned and done up until that day pushed her through the door.
Now she’s entitled to go out into the world hunting for stories like Rachfal’s to bring back to you.
For Cathryn Freeburger of Prince Frederick, who you’ll read for the first time in this week’s pages, opportunity came from Heaven’s Hedge. That’s what she calls lemon verbena, the herb she harvested, sweetened and strained for the jelly featured in this week’s From Your Garden.
She’d have made jelly, Bay Weekly or not. The story was made because of my open invitation to readers to tell what you’re harvesting.
Freeburger shared not only words and pictures but also two jars of her jelly delivered to Bay Weekly in a basket with crackers and cream cheese.
So I was able to confirm by taste my initial judgment made by photo: “It’s lovely!”
That’s my professional opinion as a once-upon-a-time state and county fair prizewinner.
County fairs were my window of opportunity.
The Illinois State Fair canning, jellying and pickling entries had set the sill so high I didn’t dare reach for it in the years I lived in Springfield, Illinois, home of that August agricultural extravaganza. Anne Arundel and Calvert County fairs were at my level. I won my first prize in life for raspberry jam at the Anne Arundel Fair.
After that, I jellied, canned and pickled for competition as well as for preservation and pleasure, collecting stacks of ribbons and eventually daring and winning a blue ribbon in the Maryland State Fair. I’ve even taken judging classes to improve my artistry.
“You ought to enter that jelly in the Calvert County Fair,” I told Freeburger. I hope she will. She’s sure to win a ribbon, and with it a couple of dollars. Not to mention the pride of achievement, which opens its own doors.
Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; firstname.lastname@example.org