Have you ever stumbled upon an opportunity to serve someone else, but hesitated and lost the chance? I know I have.
Throughout my life, there have been plenty of times when I’ve kicked myself for letting an opportunity to serve someone in need pass me by.
In an effort to avoid the regret of failing to do a good deed, I decided a few years ago to keep a sharp eye out for opportunities to help those around me.
It didn’t take long for an opportunity to literally appear right in front of my car. I was sitting in the drive-through at a local Wendy’s on a cold winter evening, waiting for my food. The Wendy’s establishment I was visiting happened to be attached to a gas station, and I noticed a homeless man pushing a grocery cart full of his belongings from garbage can to garbage can beneath the gas station awning.
I was very nervous, but I made up my mind that I would offer my food to the man. I pulled up next to him just as he started leaning into another garbage can. He stopped and looked at me questioningly as I rolled down my window. I mustered up my courage and blurted out, “are you hungry?”
I expected him to say yes, and then I expected to hand him my food and leave with happy, tingly feelings inside. I imagined him biting into the Junior Bacon Cheeseburger with bliss and washing it down with a refreshing swig of Diet Dr. Pepper.
Instead, his eyebrows pursed and a look of confusion filled his face. After a moment, he responded, “Uh, no.”
That wasn’t part of the plan. My face flushed red as I took a second look at the “homeless man” and his cart full of belongings. To my horror, I saw the scene for what it really was: a cart full of garbage bags the man had just changed. He wasn’t dumpster-diving for food. He wasn’t even homeless. He worked there.
I sheepishly said “OK,” rolled up my window and drove away, hoping passersby wouldn’t be blinded by the scarlet hue of my face. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that kindness fail, or how embarrassed it made me feel.
As my experience so gracefully illustrates, serving others doesn’t always turn out how you planned. But you should do it anyway.
Reaching out to someone in need can be scary and put you in a vulnerable position.
Do it anyway. The truth is, if I hadn’t stopped and offered my food to that non-homeless man that day, I would have regretted it for months afterward.
Thanks to the promise I made to myself to look for opportunities to serve, I have no regrets about the experience and a funny story to tell my kids. (Peterson is a Serve Daily contributor).