Missed opportunity

“During their lifetimes, every man and woman will stumble across a great opportunity. Sadly, most of them will simply pick themselves up, dust themselves down and carry on as if nothing ever happened.”
― Winston Churchill

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(a very wet cardinal, seeking shelter from a spring downpour amongst the leaves of an ailing oak tree / Julie Cook / 2014)

Each day, as we wander about this thing we call life, we are offered a myriad of opportunities. Opportunities “to bless and to be blessed.”
Some may say it is an opportunity to be kind and to receive a kindness in return, while others may simply put it in a nutshell as “one good deed deserves another”. . .
How ever you choose to view the chances and opportunities offered to all of us on a daily basis, those chances to be nice, to be kind, to be giving. . .tragically are sometimes totally missed.

Missed opportunities.

I am ashamed to say, I totally missed one today.
In a big way.

Long story short, as I was cruising down the frozen food aisle, during my weekly grocery pilgrimage, while looking for frozen peaches for the blasted daily smoothie regime, a young woman pushing a shopping cart, with a cute little boy sitting in her buggy, comes up behind me. We’re the only two buggies on the aisle.
I hear a question being posed somewhere from behind me but it was such that I couldn’t tell if it was being directed to me or perhaps it was a phone conversation.

I turn slightly, looking over my left shoulder, acknowledging that someone is coming up right beside me. Sure enough, the young woman was talking to me.
“hey, can I ask you a question?”
I stop pushing my cart, smiling.
“I remember you, you’re a teacher at the high school. Do you have any money, maybe some change, some pennies?”

Whoa. . .What?
I’m knocked totally off guard—and I didn’t recognize this person telling me she recognized me.
Who asks for money on the frozen food aisle??

She had a lean cuisine sitting in her buggy. The little boy, who I assumed was her son, was cute and smartly dressed. Upon observation I could see that her teeth were not in the best of shape and she looked a bit ragged but was bubbly and quite personable. I was so taken aback that I stammered, telling her I just had a debit card.

She continued chatting. “You still teaching?”
“No” I replied, “I retired almost 2 years ago.”
“Retired?” she retorts incredulously, “you old enough?”
“Do you miss it?”
“I miss my kids but I don’t miss the hassles” I offer.
“Oh I miss it. I miss school a lot.”
This said as she scoots on down the aisle chatting and laughing.

I follow along behind her, working my way to a check out lane. Attempting to see in which direction she headed, as I now had had enough time to process what had just happened, I looked down in my bag for my change purse–wanting to offer her what I could find—but I couldn’t figure out where she went.

The checkout lanes aren’t that massive, but she wasn’t standing in one.
Hummmm.
I actually knew the lady in front of me at the check out lane who was in the process of putting her groceries on the checkout counter. Telling her quickly what had just happened, she helps me to scan the area as well, but couldn’t spot the young lady.

Missed opportunity.

I’m not a super quick thinker. Nor terribly fast on my feet when it comes to “confrontations”–always coming up with the perfect response after having had time to think about it all. . .
I actually had a little cash in my wallet, but was wanting to use it for the next stop of the day at the dry cleaners.

I felt terrible. I should have given her the cash. Why did I have to think about it first? Why couldn’t my response of giving have been immediate, one without thought or reservation? Why didn’t I offer to buy the lean cuisine?

No, I had to rummage in my brain as to why she’d be asking for change or pennies for a lean cuisine.
I had to ponder the potential for scams as the nightly news pounds that into our brains.
I had to be reserved, pulling inward, rather than letting go of self and flowing outward.

I dropped the proverbial ball.

What had I learned form Lent, from Easter and from all that I hold to profess as my faith–
Sadly, obviously, very little.

What I do know, is that we are to give, unabashedly.
We are to offer all we have.
The Pharisees gave greatly because they had greatly to give. . .but the poor widow had but pennies and gave all that she had. . .she didn’t think about it. . .she didn’t ponder whether she’d have enough for the dry cleaners, she didn’t worry about being scammed, she didn’t have to know the person. She didn’t have to have proof that the money was going to what was professed.
She simply gave.
No thoughts.
No waffling.
No holding back.

Missed opportunity.

Now I’m not advocating throwing caution to the wind.
I whole heartily recommend that one should take in the surroundings and circumstance before digging into wallets and pockets, all before handing over any money to strangers.
I certainly suggest using some common sense.
But I am hoping that for the next opportunity presented my way, that I may step up to the plate a bit more readily, without wrangling in my head and weighing the pros and cons, the shoulds and the shouldn’ts—being more giving than reserved.

Here’s to learning from a missed opportunity.

8 comments on “Missed opportunity

  1. y. prior says:

    well I also do not miss the hassles of teaching – 🙂

    anyhow, just wanted to chime in here, because I have noticed that times that I “missed out” on giving – ell sometimes they later helped me to NOT miss the chance – and maybe when it mattered more. It was almost like I had a training – and maybe that was to get me to wake up and be alerted for the more important time when the Lord really wanted me to give. There have also been times when I have felt the Lord tell me – prompt me – to refrain from giving an item. Rare, but just crystal clear to not give – and so I think it takes balance. or like you say common sense –

    but when in doubt – or if I am ever unsure, well I always opt for the giving –
    and well, you could have also offered to buy the dinner for her with your debit card – but again, it was one of the moments where things happen so fast.
    I enjoyed this post….
    and just earlier this week we were driving and saw a guy with the sign for money or food – and wow – who really carries cash anymore, but I dug out some quarters from the console and felt to give them….. wasn’t much, but such a joy –
    🙂

  2. Thanks Yvette–I hesitated even relaying this story via the blog. I’m the first one to, as you, dig for change in the car for the guy on the street, the first to add to my grocery bill for the Special Olympics, and was the queen of raising money on the fly at school for the latest world disaster—but when I was caught off guard and didn’t react as I would have wished, I really got put out with myself. Part of my sorting of all of this as she asked for the money was thinking, she’s got this little boy but has a lean cuisine–what about something for him and why a lean cuisine–there was so much more she could have chosen. . .and why pennies, did she want to get him gum—all this running through my head. I was actually strapped for cash myself and was having to watch what I spent so I was not feeling nearly as free as I normally would have been. . .but as you say, perhaps this was a training for something bigger down the road–maybe it was lessons for both she and I—-
    The whole incident really just wasn’t the me I know me to be—that’s what was so troubling–
    Thank you though for your thoughtful reflections—
    juie

  3. Natalie Scarberry says:

    I have missed out on opportunities as well, and I always regret that I didn’t even perceive it as such until somewhat later. I think it happens to all of us especially when we are caught off guard and in a world where we can’t be as trusting as we once were. Who knows maybe it was the Lord’s way of protecting you from some kind of scam or harm. It is strange that you couldn’t see her or find her later on. Blessings and hugs, Natalie 🙂

    • thank you Natalie–I felt so badly when I got home, I would have come running over to you in your garden seeking your wisdom–but as that wasn’t feasible, I wrote the post. I thought it odd as well that I couldn’t see where she went…I could see the door from where I was but I didn’t she her there either.
      Who knows—but I just wish I could think faster on my feet. . .
      …it just really bothered me. Oh well–lessons are indeed there.
      Hope you are feeling fit and fancy free these days as your wonderful world is blooming beautifully!
      love to you—julie

  4. Lynda says:

    Julie, thank you for sharing this incident so honestly. This happens to all of us and I am one who tends to react slowly at times as well. It depends on the circumstances. This is a wake-up call for all of us and that is the reason it is important that you shared. Lots to ponder. Life is mystery. Blessings.

    • Thank you Lynda—I was very hesitant to share it as I didn’t want to come across as a bad person–as I try so hard to truly be kind and giving. You are right in saying, “lots to ponder” as it certainly has given me much to think about.
      I hope you have a wonderful day—is your term almost over? It is final exam week here for the local college—my son finished up yesterday, thank goodness. This term has taken a toll on him physically as he has to exert so much of himself for the work load.
      Love and blessings—Julie

      • Lynda says:

        Julie, thanks for asking about my term. We finished almost two weeks ago and I understand what you are saying about your son being exhausted. Then there was babysitting, a retreat for RCIA, dinner party, Holy Week, Triduum, Easter dinner, house guest and the resulting illness but I’m on the mend now. I must learn that I’m no longer as young as I was! I’m taking one compressed course in May with five papers due in about a two-week period. I think I’m a bit crazy!! But I love it!

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