Missed Opportunities

I hope my kids wearing their costumes to Target added some smiles in the lives of those around us. It definitely added smiles to my life.
I hope my kids wearing their costumes to Target added some smiles in the lives of those around us.
There is a local girl who works at a store I frequent – along with her husband – who died yesterday. She has been in ICU for a week after a car wreck last Sunday. Her husband is the one I was thinking about when I wrote an entry asking about offering “good thoughts” to someone who is religious; instead of prayers. I know I only know them from my frequent visits to their workplace, but their story has been heavy on my heart all week. I checked their church’s Facebook page at least a dozen times a day, hoping for a positive update. When I found out she died yesterday, I cried.

The thing I keep going back to is that I saw her, maybe even the day before the wreck that ended up killing her. She was working and I saw her a lane or two over when I was checking out. Her work “uniform” is not something any other employees seem to play around with, but that day she had this scarf on, dressing it up a bit and I thought, She always looks so pretty. I don’t know how she manages to wear outfits I envy even when stuck with the same guidelines as everyone else, but she does!

I keep going back to that moment in my mind, looking at her 5 feet away and thinking a lovely thought about her. I keep reliving those few seconds of checking out at the grocery store and asking myself, Why didn’t you tell her that?

It’s dumb, I know. She died. She left behind her young husband and parents who are now childless. And here I am, wishing I had told her she’s pretty that one time.

But I can’t stop thinking about it. Thinking about that missed opportunity to add a little joy into someone’s day. What turned out to be one of the last conscious days on this earth. She has this job dealing with the public in a capacity surely conducive to crappy days at work built on negative interactions with customers. And I just walked right by the chance to pay her a sincere compliment.

I don’t believe in overnight changes. I don’t believe I wake up one morning a different person because of one trigger. I believe we can make changes in ourselves, but they’re gradual. They’re long and steady climbs up a very tall mountain where we stumble and fall backwards a lot. We camp out at certain stops up the mountain of changes, sometimes for years at a time. I don’t believe any one thing can honestly bring about a big change in me in a short amount of time.

But I do believe triggers can force my climb to continue. I’ve been trying to actively become a more kind and joy-giving person for years now. I’ve written entry upon entry here about that very subject. Lately – however – my journey up that very tall mountain has halted. I’ve been wrapped up in my own failures and insecurities and sadness and anxiety and I stopped climbing several months ago. I’ve been at this stop on my mountain…feeling sorry for myself.

So, while I don’t believe in overnight changes, I do believe in firm kicks in the ass to push you on your journey towards change. And I believe I need to use this horrible tragedy as my kick in the ass. My push back on the mountain. I’ve written about my attempts to be a better person a million times on this blog (I’ve been blogging for 9 years, a “million” is probably not much of an exaggeration.) I would really like to continue my journey trying to be the kind of person who doesn’t hesitate to pay someone a compliment when it pops into my head. I want to be the kind of person who spreads any joy she has, especially if it’s something that affects a specific person in my circle of influence.

I mean – how often do I think things like, “She has great hair,” or “Look at those cute shoes!” And why don’t I share those things? Those tiny little nice thoughts that pop into my head, why do I keep them to myself? Why don’t I share them with those I’m thinking about? Knowing that those small compliments could give a person a reason to smile. Why do I keep keep that from them?

I know we all mention holding loved ones tighter when young people are tragically taken from us. “You never know how long you’ll have them!” is a common sentiment and I am thinking about that one too. But what about spreading joy? What about using tragedies as a reminder to us to spread positive energy into the world any chance we can get. Or at least trying not to spread more negative energy. Maybe if I don’t have a compliment in my heart, dying to be shared with someone near me, maybe I can at least squelch the urge to spread an insult. I may not be thinking about anyone around me having a good hair day, but I bet I can at least squash the urge to roll my eyes at the girl checking out so slow in front of me. Because, while I may not be in the mood to spread joy, I can at least try NOT to spread hate.

So, I’m back on the mountain again. I’m sure the slope to change will be shallow for awhile. But at least I’ll be trying to make forward progress in becoming the type of person who adds light to the world as she passes through. As I deal with my own gray issues along the way, I think it can only help if I try to add color to the lives of those around me. I want to spread that light because you just never know when you’ve missed the opportunity to brighten someone’s final days with a kind word or a compliment.

16 thoughts on “Missed Opportunities”

  1. You constantly amaze me with your self insight and desire to be positive. I want to be a better person just by knowing you.

  2. i’m delurking to say that i’ve been reading you for longer than i care to admit (pre nikki!) and you are fantastic. i know you didnt write this to get the “quiet” ones to tell you how much we adore you, but if i’m going to listen to you– i should absolutely be saying how much i love hearing your (and your family’s!) stories. you do always inspire to me to do better– either by not being mean re others, by being positive and being such a family oriented person. πŸ™‚ i hope you have a great day and thanks for the nudge in the right direction… πŸ™‚

  3. All the time, I miss opportunities all the time but hopefully after reading this, I can improve. And like you said, at least I can NOT spread hate and negativity. Hopefully. Hopefully.

  4. Love this! I try to do this and the responses are always amazing. Also, if I ever see someone with a veteran’s hat or military uniform, I thank them for their service. The shock and appreciation on their faces are priceless. You know they don’t hear it enough!

  5. I love this – though I am sorry to read about the tragedy.

    I’ve been thinking about this recently, actually, too; making it a bit of a mission this year to Say Things, to not worry so much about whether it may be seen as ‘proper’ or whatnot; so to dare say “Cute shoes!” or so on, but also to say “I really like about you” and mean it. Yes. Tell people things – nice things.

    You’re a great inspiration to me; so thank you.

  6. You are wonderful. You are going through your own gray patches and you are putting yourself out there to make this world a better place. I feel privileged to “know” you – even just via your blog. You are making a bigger difference than you know. I’m sure everyone who reads your blog, who just read this entry, feels the urge to just smile more and bigger…be more positive and pay random compliments to total strangers…to be cognizant of their surroundings and be aware of people around them and their expressions and maybe even read them. Person looks sad, smile their way! Offer to pay for their coffee or something.

    Thank you, Kim. Once again you have opened my eyes. I do always try to be polite and never rude, but I haven’t really been complimenting much. I do show gratitude to our military, like Becca up there, but that’s about it. I know I always appreciate when those rare compliments come my way and I need to share the love.

    You may not know how much you have done for that young woman’s family, but I’m sure that everyone who has read this entry and the other asking for positive thoughts/prayers, has done just that and I hope and pray that that young woman’s family get through this horrible tragedy.

    As always, you amaze me with your thoughtfulness.

  7. Excellent post. I love your writing, and wanted, in the spirit of your post, to let you know that I liked it, and liked it well enough to link to it on Facebook. (for what that’s worth! πŸ™‚ )

  8. While I didn’t intend that with the entry – I’m not turning down the kind words. Lord knows I need them quite a bit lately πŸ™‚ Thank you very much. And I ready 100s of blogs I never comment on, so I understand πŸ™‚

  9. Thank you for turning this around and making me sound AWESOME! πŸ˜‰

    And I hope the family feels some extra kindness in this world soon, as their broken hearts can surely use it.

  10. Kim you are awesome! You have an amazing heart whether it’s helping the kids at the school as part of the theatre productions, or maybe encouraging one of the others at boot camp (I don’t know if you do that but I imagine that you do – whether it’s setting pace so someone can try and improve or helping them up when they trip over their feet)

    You are lovely and I hope that if I meet you in person one day that you’ll let me give you a hug and I’ll tell you that you’re fab and amazing and really inspiring. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, worries and life in general through the tough times and the good times. Some blogs are like rainbows and butterflies all the time but I thank you for including the big black rainstorm days too. hugs!

  11. I while ago I set a goal to say nice things when I think them. I’ve been trying to call parents when their kids do something nice or just smile and acknowledge me on the sidewalk. I try to tell people when I appreciate something they’ve done or if I admire their style. I’ve found it to be an incredibly rewarding and amazingly LOW-EFFORT thing to do!

    Do not have regrets about this woman you are mourning. You can’t live your life backwards. Go forward from here, resolving to not miss those opportunities any more and know that you are doing it in tribute to her. That would be quite a special legacy she leaves you.

  12. I think you are AMAZING and real and positive. You inspire me and I know you inspire so many others! I was thinking – I bet it would mean a lot to the family if you dropped a note in the mail or through the church’s FB page to let them know what an impact she had on you. I know when I lost my dear, sweet Grandmother, the unexpected cards with others sweet memories of her meant THE WORLD. I think it will give them solace and let them see how she imapcted others in a positive way by just being herself. πŸ™‚ Thank YOU for being real, being honest and being you!

  13. I saw your comment on the churches facebook page and it made me sad for you and for the family. I often found myself thinking about missed opportunities myself, and lately I have been making sure I don’t have many of them. Your statement about the journey up the mountain fits perfectly into what I was looking to say to someone who is going to through a hard time right now. A depression of sorts. I may “borrow” that, or read it to them. Hopefully it will help……thanks!

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