One of my favorite parts in Dr. Kevin Elko’s book “Touchdown”, is when he explains how everybody goes through different seasons of their lives. For example, you have “the high-school season; then, the four-years-in-college season; the dating season; the starting-out-on-your-own season; the just-married season; and on and on. Each season of your life calls you to make something of it.” Well, I am currently and forever will be in the helping others season of my life and just like all of the other seasons, you learn from your mistakes. My latest mistake is also my most recent regret.
A few months ago, my daughter was in the Pediatric ICU at the Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. It was starting to get late, so I told my son it was time for us to leave and I asked him to go give his mother and sister a hug and a kiss. Before we left, my wife asked me if I could go get her a Dr. Pepper out of the vending machine. I made sure I had some money and I was on my way. As I opened the door that lead to the vending machine, the first thing I saw was a man sitting on a bench right across from the vending machine. I gave him a nod without saying a word and I turned my back towards him to buy the drink. My natural response when I run into someone I don’t know has always been to ask them, “How are you doing today?” However, I couldn’t ask that question this time because I already knew the answer. I could tell by the pain I saw in his eyes when I opened the door that he was not doing well. I knew that look. It was the same look I had every time I saw my reflection anywhere on the Pediatric ICU floor. It’s the look that says, “Lord, help me. I’m down on both knees.” As I inserted the dollar bill in the vending machine, I kept searching for something to say to him. However, I couldn’t find the words. I then reached down for the Dr. Pepper and I left, without saying a thing.
I was caught off guard. I got back to our room, kissed my wife and daughter goodbye, and my son and I went home. I started the car and as soon as the radio came on, I turned it off. I decided to drive home in silence because I wanted to make sure I could hear the words of what I was supposed to say to that man if they came to me. Twenty minutes later driving down I-65, they did. “Would you like some company?” That’s all I had to say. A very simple, yes or no, non-intrusive, polite question that could have made all the difference in the world for the both of us.
Regret is a tough thing, but it’s a great teacher. If we could all go back and change some things from our past and handle certain situations differently, I’m sure we would all jump at the chance to do so. Kenny Chesney recorded a song written by Dean Dillon and Bill Anderson called “A Lot of Things Different” and it talks about doing just that. Some of the most powerful lyrics in the song are:
“I wish I woulda spent more time with my Dad when he was alive, now I don’t have the chance. I wish I had told my brother how much I loved him before he went off to war, but I just shook his hand. And I wish I had gone to church on Sunday morning when my Grandma begged me to, but I was afraid of God. And I wish I would’ve listened when they said ‘Boy, you’re gonna wish you hadn’t’, but I wouldn’t. Oh I, I’d done a lot of things different. People say they wouldn’t change a thing, even if they could. Oh, but I would.”
I would too. One of the many great lessons my Dad taught me was that when life rings the bell, you answer it. I regret that I couldn’t answer the bell this time, but… Never again.
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