We all have opportunities every day to enrich our lives and the lives of others! How many opportunities have you taken advantage of? How many have you missed? What would you do differently, if you had it to do over?
I missed an opportunity the other day, and I have felt sad about it ever since. I wish I had acted on my impulse, but I didn’t. I hope I have learned a meaningful lesson in the process.
Last week, I had an hour break between clients, so I decided to go down to a coffee shop not far from my office. I ordered my coffee, found a comfy seat, and opened my book, prepared to enjoy the gift of some time to relax and read. Because I am always interested in the people I see when I’m out and about, one of my favorite things is people-watching. It’s amazing the variety of people there can be, even in a small location!
Shortly after I started reading, I noticed a very frail, elderly man, attempting to come into the coffee shop. Someone quickly jumped up to hold the door open for him, and he was able to maneuver his walker through, He slowly moved across the floor and got in line to place his order. When he got over to where the prepared drinks were to be picked up, I saw a woman say something to him, and then helped him put his drink and snack on the seat of his walker. I decided she must be with him, and I had just not noticed her earlier. I was wrong, though, as she turned away, and walked back to her table.
I watched him again slowly move across the floor to a table not too far from me. He cautiously set his drink and snack down on the table, and then very carefully settled himself down on the chair. There was a dignity about him, but there was also clearly a sad, loneliness there too. I sat arguing with myself about whether I should go over and say something to him, so that he would have someone to talk to. He sat in his chair and simply looked around. He seemed to be patiently waiting — but waiting for what? Was he waiting for a friend to meet him there? Or…was he waiting for a stranger to go up to him and say “Hi?” Would he think it an intrusion if I did go over and introduce myself?
While I was wrestling with what I should do, I noticed that he had finished his drink and was cleaning up the paper from his snack. He struggled to stand upright, and in the process, he dropped the paper ring that goes around a hot coffee drink. OK! My indecision was over! There was no way I could sit idly by while he precariously leaned down to pick up something off the floor!
I got up quickly and walked over to him, bent down and retrieved the paper ring. I asked him if he had enjoyed his coffee. He had the warmest smile spread across his face, and happily told me, oh yes! He said that he had been able to see two of his friends. I smiled at him, and said that I was glad. While I was picking up the paper ring, someone else had gone over to hold the door open for him. I had just enough time to say that I hoped the rest of his day would be good too, and then he was out the door. I saw him slowly walk to the corner and stand with his walker, waiting for the light to change so he could cross the street. Others were standing near him, but they were lost in their own lives, and didn’t look toward him.
As it had turned out, I hadn’t even had time to tell him my name, or to find out his. I felt like we both missed an opportunity to connect in a meaningful way. I wondered about him the rest of the day. I wondered about his story. What is his life like? Does he have people that care about him — that care for him? I wondered who the two friends were that he mentioned. I wondered if maybe he was talking about the two people I had seen help him in the coffee shop.
I’m hoping that I get another chance to get to know him. I can assure you that the next time I go into that coffee shop, I’ll be looking for him. I can also assure you that if he does happen to come in, I won’t sit so long trying to decide what to do!
Don’t miss your opportunity to connect with others! I’ll probably never know how much a few minutes of my time might have meant to this one human being — and to me. I feel sad about that. I was very human, and unsure what was the best course of action, but I wish I had just taken a chance, and walked over sooner. Connections feed each person’s heart and soul!
Until next time,