A dream fulfilled: scuba diving in the U.S. Virgin Islands

The Tip of a Lifetime

For one waitress, her dream of becoming a scuba instructor seemed far from reach — until a customer helped bring it closer

Cassandra Jeanne was living in Thailand with a boyfriend when she first tried scuba diving, and she didn’t care for it. “I tried diving and just realized how uncomfortable it made me and I had no interest in pursuing the hobby,” she told Good Turns. But when she learned that her boyfriend felt he couldn’t be with a woman who didn’t dive, she grit her teeth and worked one-on-one with an instructor for a few weeks — only to have him break up with her anyway and fly himself home, leaving her in Thailand — despite the fact that she was by then nearly ready to become a divemaster herself.

“I was devastated,” Jeanne recalls. She moved home to the States in October 2015, determined to save enough money to move to the U.S. Virgin Islands and become a dive instructor. After two weeks of double shifts waiting tables at a local diner, she’d saved enough to buy a car, so that her mother didn’t have to drop her off in the cold New Jersey morning for her shift, and her friends didn’t have to pick her up after work.

“I am so thankful every day to be where I am, doing what I am doing, and I will never forget how I first got here”

As soon as she could afford it, she bought a one-way ticket, leaving on her birthday in April — a date that gave her six months to save enough money for her fresh start in the sun. Then, something interesting happened.

“Right before Christmas, as I was finishing up my shift, I was talking to a customer about my plans,” Jeanne recalls. “He had been in the diner before and knew about my travels to Thailand, my breakup, and my newfound love for the ocean. He asked me why I was waiting so long to start my new journey, and I explained that I wanted to have enough money comfortably saved, and that my courses would be expensive if I wanted to become a divemaster and an open-water instructor.”

“He left me the most generous tip of my lifetime,” Jeanne says. (When we asked her whether it was a three-figure tip or a four-figure tip, she said, “Neither.”) But the gift came with two conditions: that she should change her flight and get on with her new life, and that she should find a way to pay it forward.

She left two weeks later, and has been working in the Virgin Islands ever since. “I am so thankful every day to be where I am, doing what I am doing, and I will never forget how I first got here,” she says.

And what about paying it forward? Well, remember that car? Jeanne first came to our attention when we spotted a Facebook post in which she offers to give her car away to someone, asking people to nominate others who were deserving and in need. “I read over 500 stories from the most kind-hearted humans,” she says. “It was so hard to choose, because everyone has their own reasons for needing transportation. I picked a man named James, who works with the children in his community, inspiring them to help change the lives of others around them. He has a wife and three children, one a newborn. And the two of them had shared a car, which was a challenge. This man spoke to my heart because I too used to volunteer with the youth in my community. James pays it forward every day in his community, and I loved that about the story.”

One good turn begets another. What started as a painful breakup ended up as the fulfillment of a dream.

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