Missed Opportunities

My family and I got back from a Florida beach vacation a few days ago.  We spent a week in the Clearwater/St. Petersburg area.  We saw “Hurricane Simulators” at various tourist sites.  Of course, it’s nothing like a real hurricane.  In fact, a hurricane machine for fun is probably offensive to people who have been through an actual hurricane.  Nevertheless, my son, being a typical 7-year-old boy asked to try it every time we saw one.  I used my stock answer, “Maybe later.”

So around day 4 of our vacation, I finally agreed.  We were at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa.  I’m not sure why I decided to say “yes” at that moment.  Perhaps I figured, what’s another $2 with all of the money we’ve spent on this trip?  (By the way, we had another opportunity the next day while waiting in the extreme, stagnant, humid heat for our dolphin-watching cruise.  This time, I decided to join the kids, and it was glorious.  The coolness of the wind stuck with me for a while, even after leaving the simulator).

I was digging through my camera case, which doubles as my purse while on vacation, for a couple of singles.  I had put one into the machine, and had just found a second when a stranger put a dollar in front of me.  I said, “I’ve got it, but thank you,” as I fed in the second dollar.  He said, “Well, my brother paid for mine.”  I responded, “And I just took away your chance to pay it forward.  I’m sorry.”

He looked a little disappointed, but not annoyed.  He seemed to delight in watching my children’s enjoyment of the simulator.  Everyone did.  There was a small crowd watching, and I heard someone say, “She likes it!” about my daughter.

In retrospect, I wish I had handled the situation differently.  While I was already feeding money into the machine before I understood what he was trying to do, I could have done something to continue the string of paying it forward, instead of abruptly ending it.  I could have offered to join a dollar with his, and we could have given our $2 to someone else in the small crowd.  But, sadly, I didn’t think of it until much later.

I feel a little sad about this missed opportunity.  Of course, I can’t change it now.  But, it does inspire me to look for some chances to pay it forward in the future.


6 thoughts on “Missed Opportunities”

  1. Thank you for sharing this story!! I honestly hate looking back on moments regretting my quick decisions. I’m a total over-thinker, so I will think about what I should have done for hours after. While you can’t change what happened, that is so true that you can use the experience to inspire you in the future.

  2. No better feeling than paying it forward, I am sure you will have plenty more opportunities. It makes me think of a time when I was struggling with my kids in the middle of an eatery. My pram fell over, I had bags and my purse falling all over the floor, my little fella throwing a HUGE tantrum…. I was struggling, you would have to have been deaf and blind not to notice I was struggling. Of all the 50 people who were in that eatery watching me struggle, 0 came to help me. I would have loved a bit of pay it forward that day!

  3. Well, I do not see it as a missed opportunity. You do not have to give something back immediately but you can do it later, at least that is what I think.

  4. I love paying it forward! It is too bad an opportunity was lost but I bet you both look to find another way. My favorite is letting someone with less groceries go in front of me at the grocery store. They are always so happy.

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