I have always tried to live my life without regrets. Which is not to say I have lived a perfect life, indeed, who among us has? And how boring would that be if you did? But I have always thought that you should try to be as happy as you can where you are, understanding that every step you have taken has brought you there. But I find myself looking back and having some regrets, not for things I did, but for things I didn't do. For times I should have stood up for what I believed in, for what was right, for what needed to be said.
I never spoke up for the girl who had dirty hair and smelled funny and sat by herself at middle school lunch. Kids called her names and made fun of her, sometimes right to her face. And while I can say that I did not call her any names, neither did I ever try to help her out.
I never said a thing that day in college when a boy came in dressed as a girl, complete with heels and makeup. I watched as he sat quietly, head down, in the circle of desks in a class on Ethics. Other students left one by one. We could hear them laughing right thru the open door. A handful of us stayed in the room, quiet, solemn, not knowing what to do. Not meeting each other's eyes, but not meeting his, either. When class was over, the rest of us left while he stayed behind. I never saw him again.
As a new real estate agent I was asked by my manager to take a visitor and his wife on a tour of Missoula, pointing out the highlights and trying to give him a sense of what our city was like. They were visiting from Auburn and as we drove up one of the residential hills, he began to talk about why he 'had' to move. Lets just say his racist comments flabbergasted me.
I was buying a minivan in preparation for a move down to Austin Texas and was chatting with the salesperson about why we were moving. I said to him there is only one thing I am not sure I can live with in Texas. He nodded solemnly. As it turns out, he was a racist, too. After a shocked and awkward silence I said, no, I meant the humidity. I bought the van.
I wish I had sat by that girl, told other kids to leave her alone. I wish I had talked to that boy. I wish I had gone out that door and shamed each and every one of those laughing students. I wish I had gone back into the classroom and asked that teacher "What is wrong with you? Why did you just sit there and stay silent when one of your students needed you?" I wish I had pulled my car over to the curb and told that self righteous bigot and his silent wife to get out of my car. I wish I had thrown the keys back in that salesman's face and told him to shove his minivan some place uncomfortable.
But I didn't. Instead I was silent. I will regret that to the end of my days.