Out of Challenges Come Opportunities

One of the stranger but perhaps more insightful stories in American History is why, in Enterprise, Alabama, there is a monument of appreciation erected to the boll weevil.

Around the turn of the past century, the late 1800s and early 1900s, almost every area in the south raised cotton. It was a hearty plant that grew well even on marginal land that could not sustain other crops. In many areas, it was the main cash crop. It was the main cash crop until the appearance of the boll weevil.

To say that boll weevils were prolific would be an understatement. One mating pair could produce two million offspring each season. It arrived from Mexico in America, some say first in Texas, in 1892. They punctured the bolls of the cotton plants, destroying the crop. Although the small beetles can fly only short distances, they spread rapidly across the south, leaving a path of devastation. By 1903, it was labeled “a wave of evil.”

Some seemed to be resigned to being helpless victims of its destruction. Others, with a different attitude, chose a different approach. George Washington Carver, along with several other researchers, began to investigate alternative crops that could be grown on the same land. What did they find?

They found peanuts! Peanuts could be planted and harvested with relative ease. Cotton gins fell into disuse, and the region became one of the most recognized peanut-producing centers in the world. The farmer’s profits far exceed what they had earned from their best cotton crops. Some made enough profit from their first crop of peanuts to pay off the losses from prior years and have money left over. The people were so thankful for their dramatic change in fortunes that, in 1919, they erected a monument “in profound appreciation of the Boll Weevil.” The people of Alabama learned that out of challenges can come opportunities.

Today, many of us are facing a new challenge. It is a great challenge. It is a national challenge. Sometimes people spend a lot of energy wondering “why” particular things happen. We simply cannot always know. The wise man, Solomon, by inspiration, assures us that “time and chance happen” to all (Ecclesiastes 9:11). What we can choose is how we deal with the challenge. Is there a big rock in our path? It is up to us whether we allow it to be a stumbling block, or we try to use it as a steppingstone. If we allow ourselves to focus only on the negative, then that will likely be the main result in our lives. If, on the other hand, we are able to see how those challenges can lead to opportunities, then there is the potential for great positive outcomes.