The Road to Damascus Moment

by | Sep 8, 2021 | 0 comments

I previously have written that one of the key experiences which led me to write my book, Daughter of the Land, came at the end of February 2020.  I was invited to speak at the Blanchard Community Library in Santa Paula at an event celebrating the library’s founding by my great grandparents 110 years earlier. 

I had grappled with writing a book as two family members had already written about family and local history, as had other historians.  What could I add? But as I spoke to the audience that day, I realized my new interpretations and different point of view could create a fresh and interesting narrative.  At that moment, Daughter of the Land was born and I have since come to call that experience “a Road to Damascus Moment.”

Let me digress a bit.  The Road to Damascus refers to the conversion of Saul of Tarsus that occurred as he rode his donkey from Jerusalem to Damascus.  We know Saul as St. Paul, but he was not a Christian when he began the trip, in fact, he was an active persecutor of the early Christians. But on the journey, he was suddenly confronted by a god-sent blinding light that hurled him from his donkey onto the road. When he regained his sight three days later he not only converted to Christianity but became one of the great saints of the early church. 

So, my definition of a Road to Damascus Moment is the sudden realization that comes to you either via inspiration or perspiration, that you are at the right place, at the right time, and equipped with the right skills to undertake something new.

Upon consideration, I realize I have experienced four such moments in my life.  The first occurred in 1997 when I happened to stand next to the mayor of Ventura as he presented arts awards. He was not familiar with the arts community and I found myself quietly coaching him as he struggled to put names to organizations.  I suddenly realized I was good at this and made a decision I had previously toyed with to become an arts professional and advocate.  That decision led me to become the executive director of New West Symphony, (Thousand Oaks, CA) and later interim exec of the Rubicon Theatre Company and development director of the Museum of Ventura County (both Ventura, CA) as well as a member and chair of many arts organizations throughout Ventura County.

The second occasion was in 2016 when I was interviewed for a seat on the board of directors of the NASDAQ-listed Limoneira Company, the farming company my great grandfather had co-founded in 1893. I thought the interview had gone well, and I turned to the room full of men in front of me and said, “Gentlemen, it’s time.”

I realized that I was the right person for the job – that all my years as an agricultural journalist and as an arts professional had prepared me for this moment – to become only the third women in the company’s 125-year history to sit on the board.

The last experience came just a week ago when I was asked to participate in the capital campaign for the Blanchard Community Library that had been delayed by Covid.  It will be a big job, raising money always is, but I said, yes, because it was the right time, the right place, and I have accumulated the skills to do the job.

Ok, so you’ve experienced the blinding light, now what? The first step is to acknowledge what has happened; the next is to commit to making it a reality.  I find this requires both an internal and an external commitment.  By external, I don’t mean announcing your decision to the world.  In my case, after I pledged to write the book, I shared the decision with my Rotary Club. I said, “ Please don’t ask me when the book will be published, but feel free to ask, ‘Hey, Betsy, how’s the book coming along?’ ” By doing this I was making myself accountable to achieving my goal.

The importance of sharing this with you is to say that Road to Damascus Moments can happen to anyone – the teenager who decides to run for student council, the former high school soccer star dad who steps up to coach his daughter’s club team, the mid-level business executive who pulls on her big girl pants and puts herself in the running for an important new job.

Each of us has the capacity to act on new ideas and to pursue new directions.

I just hope you don’t have to get knocked off your ass to recognize the opportunity!

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