Missed Opportunities

target flickr Partrick_Hoesly

Have you ever had a great idea for how to help someone, only to think of it too late to make a difference? I feel like this happens to me all the time, and the latest time was just a few weeks ago.

We were in the checkout line at Target (obviously, we were not in Allendale). I overheard the customer ahead of us talking with the cashier, and I deduced what was happening. She had brought all her items to the counter, but as the cashier scanned all the items, the woman realized that she had forgotten her wallet at home. She had no way to pay.

From what I could figure out, the cashier was going to scan and hold all the items, and the customer would go home, get her wallet, and return to pay for the items. I felt bad for her, knowing it would be a hassle. But I was glad that at least all her items would be at the checkout, so she wouldn’t have to do the shopping all over again.

As we were walking through the parking lot, the thought hit me, “Why didn’t I just offer to pay for her items?” It was only about $50 worth of stuff. I could have given her my address so she could mail a check later on. Or even if she didn’t, I could have just chalked it up as a way to serve someone.

However, this thought occurred to me too late. The lady was gone, probably on her way home, kicking herself and frustrated for making a simple mistake.

Likewise, I was also kicking myself and frustrated for not thinking how I could help her in the moment.

It’s the Thought that Counts, Right?

“It’s easy to get wrapped up in our own busy lives, but there are opportunities all around us where we can make a  difference in someone’s life. We just need to look for them.”  Tony Dungy (The Mentor Leader)

Sometimes, it really is the thought that counts. But good intentions don’t make someone’s life better. Actions are needed, not just thoughts and not just words.

Whenever I think of great ideas too late, I am frustrated with myself. I wonder, “Why didn’t I think of this sooner?” I wonder how I could claim to be a new creation in Christ (II Corinthians 5:17) if I am so self-focused most of the time. Where is all the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-25)?

I look at an example of Frank Hall, a high school teacher and coach who instinctively charged a gunman in order to protect his students. (Thanks for sharing this story,  Michael Hyatt. You know how to make a man cry.) I’d like to think I could have instinctively done this heroic act. But, I really don’t know if I would have. I’m not hopeful.

In the moment, who knows how one would react? But I fear that I would run and play it safe, and then I’d live with regret.

Be Aware of Opportunities Around Me

I have to deal with guilt like this all the time. I am learning to trust in Christ’s forgiveness, and remember that His grace is sufficient (II Corinthians 12:9).

Also, my many moments of regret over missed opportunities push me towards Christ. I have to remember that if I am not instinctively bearing good fruit, the solution isn’t to go out and do more good works. The solution is to abide in Christ (John 15:5).

I continue to pursue Jesus, asking the Spirit to make me more like Christ. And I’ll keep looking for opportunities to serve others whom God brings into intersection with my life.

“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:13-14

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**image courtesy of Patrick Hoesly via flickr


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4 responses to “Missed Opportunities”

  1. Christine says :

    I actually did this once. A woman in front of me at Publix had forgotten her money. She had broken her arm earlier that week and it was her first time out of the house. I paid for her groceries, around $50 and gave her my address. I can still remember how grateful she was (I received a check within days). The other thing I’ve done at the grocery store is tell the person behind me with only a few items if they are in a hurry they can go ahead of me since I usually have a full cart. It can make someone in a rush very happy!

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