when Love (opportunity) comes Knocking: The Day I shook Desmond Tutu’s Hand

“When love comes knocking at your door, you must be very sure that you’re ready….”
Miss Dee Dee Bridgewater said it perfectly:
But this story is not about Love.  But it’s about being ready.  Let’s rewind to 1987… I was a first year Agronomy student at UWI, St. Augustine campus.  Excitement was in the air. Archbishop Desmond Tutu was going to visit our campus. Nelson Mandela was still imprisoned.  But Archbishop Tutu and Mrs. Winnie Mandela were the faces of the fight against Apartheid.  Archbishop Tutu was going to deliver an address and I was determined to be present.  Details were announced. Capacity and security issues dictated that only faculty, executives of the Guild of Undergraduates and select invitees could attend the ceremony.  I just knew that in spite of my status as a mere first year undergrad, I had to be there.  I made no noise.  I begged no one.  Something deep down inside of me KNEW I had to be there. 
On the day of the ceremony, still saying nothing, still making no noise, I bathed and dressed in my pretty little white dress.  I remember it vividly.  I put on my blue shoes and my blue earrings and my blue eye makeup.  It was the 80s after all!  I remember my fellow Trinitarians looking on in amusement as I readied myself to meet Archbishop Tutu.  To be clear: I didn’t have a plan.  I just knew that I was going to meet him, and so I had to get ready. 
I headed out in the direction of the JKF Auditorium, the venue where the ceremony was going to be held.  I had to walk past the Guild of Undergraduates HQ.  There was a flurry of activity, easily discernible as I drew near.  Remember, I had no plan, so I just drew nigh to the guild HQ to see what was going on.  Someone thrust a cap and gown into my hands and said hurriedly: “ You’ll have to iron this quickly if you plan to join the procession”.  I didn’t miss a beat.  I replied: “No problem!” and I literally ran back to my hall of residence.  I ironed like a girl on a mission.  My fellow Trinitarians looked on curiously: “Kelly: are you part of the procession?”  I had no time to waste on explanations or justifications.  I merely nodded in the affirmative, head down, unwilling to jinx the opportunity that had landed in my lap.
Fast forward to the ceremony in the JFK Auditorium.  I slipped in line.  I mimicked those in the procession…faculty and guild execs, and slow marched up to the top.  I wasn’t flustered. I wasn’t overwhelmed. Remember I KNEW that I was going to be at the ceremony.  I didn’t know how, but I knew I had to be there.  I got ready.  I was prepared.  And I didn’t flinch or blink when the opportunity presented itself.  I’m pretty sure that I was the only first year undergrad that was in the procession that day.  I ended up in front of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and I smiled broadly, bowed my head in respect and shook his hand.  I shook Desmond Tutu’s hand.  And I proceeded along, keeping time with the procession, having learned a life lesson, a bonus to meeting the venerable Freedom Fighter: don’t wait until the opportunity presents itself to get ready.  Get ready in anticipation of the opportunity.
Since 1987, I’ve prepared ahead of the opportunities that eventually presented themselves. In every instance I was ready to catch them and run. You don’t wait until you have a car to get your driver’s licence, do you.  We bought a lot of land and got house plans drawn up four years before we made the move to build… and that move was prompted because I had witnessed a murder from the house we were living in.  “You must be very sure that you’re ready!” I did a 180 degree turn career wise by getting professional certification in Supply Management just after my son was born.  THAT move opened doors for me that I couldn’t have imagined!  Today I’m back at school, studying something completely novel to me, and I just know that it is a preemptive move for an opportunity that is going to present itself.  And guess who’ll be there, ready and waiting to catch it and run with it !
“When Love (or opportunity) comes knocking at your door, you must be very sure that you’re ready!”


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