My Most Recent Regret: Not asking the question, “Would you like some company?”

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.

Please be sure to follow Green Brick Road on Facebook by clicking the link: Green Brick Road Facebook Page

8 thoughts on “My Most Recent Regret: Not asking the question, “Would you like some company?””

  1. This is Bill Anderson, one of the writers of the song “A Lot Of Things Different.” Thanks for referencing our song in your article about regret….an excellent article by the way. There’s another old country song that I had nothing to do with writing or recording that might also fit your topic. It’s called “I’d Rather Be Sorry For Something I Did Than For Something That I Didn’t Do.”
    I have a grandson who has spent ‘way too much of his twelve years in the Pediatric Care unit at Vanderbilt too. He has a rare form of cancer that they can’t seem to get a handle on. I’ve probably gotten a Dr. Pepper out of the same vending machine you referenced in your article. God bless and thanks again….Bill Anderson

  2. Well said John and so true. We all need to remember to say a little something when the time presents itself, no matter how small you think it is. It may mean a whole lot more to the one you reach out to than you realize.

  3. John, try not to beat yourself up so much over these regrets because each one can be a learning experience… the next time you see that man with “pain in his eyes” you’ll be ready and won’t hesitate to offer a bit of compassion to a stranger.

    I sit in awe at your maturity and compassionate nature and believe that you have and will continue to inspire each of us to treat our fellow man in a way that will leave us, too with no regrets.

    All our love to you and your precious family,
    Mr. & Mrs. G

  4. I completely understand you brother, each time you share your stories. Walking by that vending machine, deep down you knew there was somebody out there that hurt like you did in that hospital scenario. I am so inspired that you always find a way to help others realize there is always company (a helping hand) right by your side. My “hand” will always be extended and I would love to share a pepper with you soon. No regrets because you just inspired many more to step up next time they encounter someone that could use a little company. I love you, Pat.

  5. Beautiful article John! Thank you for sharing it! I tend to reach out to people in life more often than not and sometimes get the “oh I’m fine” but I lead with my heart so I very rarely pass up an opportunity to make a connection with someone.
    You and Pat were two of my most favorite people in our younger years. It’s pretty darn awesome seeing what an amazing man you’ve turned out to be!
    Love ya my friend! God bless

  6. John, regrets are lessons. As you clearly understand. What a beautiful experience you’ve had. To share this story encourages me to be willing to follow my gut even if I don’t know how to verbally do that when in the moment sometimes. Thank you Aunt Kelly for tagging me on this beautiful article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *