The Ghost of Opportunity Lost


Sometimes I have moments where I remember my “old” self, the woman who arrived at events painfully early. This, of course, is a mere dream now that I have a toddler and a newborn. As a result of these wonderful and powerful drains on time, I find myself in “go” mode much of my day to manage some semblance of what I consider to be a productive life. To be honest, a part of me often gets lost in the demands of life as a parent of young children, and I lose sight of the big picture…and the people living in it.

It was a day like any other during my year as a stay-at-home mother. I had spent all morning with my son, and I needed to do something (i.e. anything) to make myself feel like an active member of society again. Where do you go when you live in a small town and want your child to, quite selfishly, be the next Einstein? Yes, we headed to the library.

I was having one of those days of urgency. I knew my son’s books were due that day, and all I could think about was getting them returned. One of the busiest streets in the area is our gateway to downtown and only minutes from our house, so I took this route as usual. Desensitized to my daily surroundings and on an “important” mission, I barely had time to notice a mother struggling to push her stroller down the dangerous sidewalk of this heavily trafficked street. She was walking against the flow of traffic, and I remember not the details of her face but her overall expression of anguish.

At the next stoplight, I felt that nagging yet compassion-driven conviction to offer the woman a ride. After all, I had plenty of room for the woman and her belongings, and I had an extra car seat available at home. As the light turned green, I gave into my human desires and prioritized my needs over hers; we remained on our journey to the library.

Approximately twenty minutes later, my car was hit from behind and totaled on our way home from the library. Somewhere in between ensuring my child’s well-being and responding to police questioning, I thought of the mother and her stroller. What if I had sacrificed a few minutes of my day to offer her a ride? What made my life more important than hers? Why did I only choose to see inconvenience instead of an opportunity to serve?

I think as mothers we get pretty wrapped up in caring for our little ones, and that is a good thing. Motherhood, however, doesn’t make the world’s need for us any less. And, if we aren’t careful, we will find ourselves haunted with rich moments lost in the corners of our hearts.

One of the greatest gifts in life is a second chance. A few weeks ago, my husband and I passed a broken down postal service vehicle on the same congested road where I had passed a mother and her stroller a year and a half earlier. Without hesitation, I asked my husband to turn around. This time I offered assistance, a smile, and an encouraging word.

As it turns out, one three-minute detour can chase away the ghost of regret. We were five minutes late for church, the world didn’t end, and I think Jesus smiled.

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