Missed Opportunity

Sometimes the Universe offers us opportunities to better ourselves or to help someone in need. I do not always heed these opportunities. Sometimes I don’t want to get engaged because of what helping someone might bring.  Most times it is good but sometimes you are inviting trouble in the door.

In 2011, I moved into my home and I did not know any of my neighbors, which was fine, as I am not the most social person in the world. One day, an older man who lived down the road and across the street came up to my home. He told me his name, Lawrence, welcomed me to the neighborhood and proceeded to remind me to vote. I thought it pretty funny because there are a lot of people who really don’t care about politics and think whomever is voted in would be fine or they are trying to convince you to vote for a certain candidate. Lawrence did not care who you voted for but he wanted to make sure you voted, as this was a right that many countries did not allow their citizens to do.

As the years went by, I would leave items at the end of my driveway that I no longer needed but didn’t want to take to Goodwill, as someone would have to pay for the item then. Sometimes Lawrence would stop and take what I had left. One time he needed help getting something in the back of his van and he asked for my help. He said he knew someone who could use it. After getting the item in the van, he grabbed some potatoes he had rolling around in the back of his van and gave them to me. He said that someone was giving them away and really, how many potatoes could a person really eat? You see, Lawrence wasn’t the one who always needed what was left for free but he always knew someone who could use it. I don’t think many people really knew this about Lawrence, only the ones who were on the receiving end of his generosity.  He wasn’t just gathering items to packrat away; he was helping his community. Sometimes he’d leave canned goods on my porch or slow down when I was mowing the lawn and hand me something he had picked up along his travels. Sometimes the items were expired but he thought they were still edible, regardless of the date. He wore worn bib overalls, work boots and drove a white paneled van. He drove 25 miles an hour. Everywhere. No faster. His house was very tiny and run down but it rested on 33 acres of gorgeous, wooded land. He was known in the local neighborhood as a hot head, dog killer, etc.  Yet….the dog was killing his geese, so shouldn’t he have the right to protect his property?  He complained about the dog but the owners didn’t seem to care. The owner said he threatened to kill their dog, then changed the story and said he threatened to kill them and their dog. Lawrence spent the night in jail for that one.  If one were to read the transcripts of the court hearing, you would walk away with the impression that Lawrence was an educated man. He knew the law. He knew his rights. He defended himself. The upset and emotional side won. Lawrence had to pay a fine on top of the night in jail.

The last time I talked to Lawrence was when he, once again, stopped by to remind me to vote. This time he didn’t ask who I was voting for but instead asked me if I had chosen someone yet. When I said, no…he stumbled backwards. Voting day was only 30 days away and I hadn’t chosen someone yet???  For once, Lawrence was rendered speechless. He was having trouble concentrating on what he wanted to say and he mentioned that he had had several strokes and they caused a bit of memory loss. Once he said this, he stopped talking and just stood there for a bit. He then said something that cracked my heart. He said, No one cares about me or what happens to me. I told him, surely that was not true. He said, No….it was true. His kids just wanted money. I waffled with how to respond but before I could make a decision, he said, Don’t forget vote!  He headed back to his van.  It wasn’t the last time I saw Lawrence but it was the last time I talked to him.

Over the years, I often wished I had responded quicker and offered a seat to talk about his feelings. I wish I had asked more questions and had shown him that there are people who care but some of us are afraid to step on toes or cross those invisible lines we have no idea we are crossing. As time passed, he stopped driving his van, someone else was driving him to where he needed to go…possibly his son, driving way faster than 25 mph, eventually for sale signs went up and I saw Lawrence no more. I mentioned to one of my neighbors that it looked like Lawrence’s kids were selling the land and she said, He doesn’t have any kids. Which means, someone was taking advantage of him, he had children or even the neighbors who lived closer to him than I didn’t know him either. This thought made me sad as they had lived there many more years than I.

I met the new owner of the land one day; he stopped while driving by. He mentioned he and his wife are working hard on cleaning up the junk yard. I wanted to say…it wasn’t junk…it was treasure to someone out there…Lawrence would have found a home for it if his body hadn’t started to fail…but instead, I just said…but it is a gorgeous piece of land….

I often wonder where Lawrence is or if he is still alive. I wish I had taken the opportunity to extend a hand to him, one of God’s fellow creations but I did not. I hope the next time the Universe gives me an opportunity, I won’t wonder what will happen if I do?” but instead wonder, “what if I don’t?”.

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