Would you be nicer if you knew …

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“One of these days you’re gonna love me. Sit down by yourself and think. About the times you turned from me. And what good friends we might have been. And then you’re gonna sigh a little, maybe even cry a little.”  Tim McGraw

That song almost always brings a tear to my eye. It reminds me of the people in my life that I should have been nicer to.

I wasn’t 20 steps in our downtown library, when a man called me by name. “Stephanie! Do you remember me?”

Don’t you hate it when people  put you on the spot like that?

I searched through the rolodex in my mind while I looked this fellow over.  He was a big man. He had long, curly hair that almost covered his eyes. He had a big, bushy, unkempt beard. I was certain I had never met this man before.

And then he said his name. “Andy.”

Oh, Andy.

I did remember Andy and suddenly the memories came like a landslide. Andy was the boy in grade school who had a very tough time. Perhaps you had an ‘Andy’ in your school to.  My Andy had to go through daily humiliation – not only inflicted by the students, but only by our grade 3 teacher.

You see Andy was dirty. Hardly the fault of an 8 year old boy, one can only imagine what his home life was like.  Everyday Andy came to school his first task was to show both sides of his hands to the teacher. And if they were dirty (which they were – everyday) she would hand him a bar of soap that she kept in her desk just for him. Off he would go to the washroom then come back to show his hands again to see if he had passed the first ‘test’ of the day.

My 8 year old self felt so horrified for him, in some way knowing something was terribly wrong but not knowing what  or how to handle it.

I remember Andy at the sock hop. Going from girl to girl asking her to dance. No after no, he just kept asking undeterred. I knew I was next in line, I remember all these conflicting feeling running through my head. I knew what I should do and I knew what I wanted to do. We danced. But all the while I remember wondering  what were all the kids watching were thinking.

Back in the library Andy was quite animated. He knew about me, and what I was doing and who I married. He said he read about me in the paper – so I though maybe it was the community paper and that we lived in the same part of town.

“Where do you live?” I asked, anticipating  we were in the same neighbourhood.

His answer shocked me.

“The Salvation Army on Higgins” he said, “I’ve been struggling with depression but I’m getting better.”

He said this, not with sadness. He said this with pride and strength and hope in his voice. “I’m getting better.”

“Oh Andy, I’m so sorry, no one deserve that.”

We chatted for a few more minutes until a lady in the library told us to shhhh. Oops, sorry.

“Andy, I have to go, I’m talking a class upstairs that starts at 2 o’clock. It was really nice seeing you.”

And we parted.

Even though my body sat upstairs in that class, my mind was anywhere but.  I realized that I did not do the very thing that I teach my clients to do.  I did not do the thing that I encourage my audiences to do and that is to ask W.I.N. – what’s important now.

Surely if I had asked myself that question, I would have realized that sitting in that class was not what was most important at that time.  Going to sit down with Andy and buying him a coffee would have been so much more valuable. I was really disappointed with myself.

When I was telling my family this story around the supper table that evening (where was he eating and was he with people who loved him?) I started to cry with sadness at the opportunity I had let slip away.

My son (who works for the Police Service) explained to me that the Salvation Army is a better place than some of the other options, that mostly it has people who are down on their luck or have a mental illness rather than those who lives have become addicated to drugs and alcohol.

The next day I had a bright idea.  I was going to an event downtown – he lived downtown. What if I asked him if he would like to go?

Yes, that’s what I would do.

For the first time in my life I phoned the Salvation Army for something other than a donation pick up.  While they won’t tell you if a person is staying there, they will leave a message in case they are.  I leave my name and number and Andy calls back quickly.

I tell him my offer and he quickly agrees – just as quickly he reneges, “Oh, I can’t tonight he says, I don’t have any money.”

I tell him I’m happy to buy him a coffee and we make a plan.  I go the to coffee shop and I wait. And wait.  And wait.

Andy doesn’t show up. Andy doesn’t call.  And that’s the end of the story.

But I don’t want it to be that end of the story.  I want to hear from Andy, I want to hear about his life, his family.  I want to know if depression caused his hard time at school or if school caused his hard time in life.

I want to help him.  I want to tell him how sorry I am that he went through all that humiliation in school, I want to say that I’m sorry I didn’t know how to help him in school, that I wasn’t nicer, that I didn’t buy him a coffee when we met at the library.

I’m sorry Andy – no one deserves to live at the Salvation Army.

Everyone knows an Andy.  What do you call yours?

This month, reach out to someone. Someone who is under served. Someone who hasn’t had the same opportunities as you have had, someone who just needs a break, or a hug or just an ear to listen to them.

Reach out to someone from your past, someone it’s time to forgive, someone who would be thrilled to hear from you.

That song that I quoted at the beginning of my talk almost always brings a tear to my eye. It reminds me of the people in my life that I could have, should have been nicer to.

“One of these days you’re gonna love me. Sit down by yourself and think. About the times you turned from me. And what good friends we might have been. And then you’re gonna sigh a little, maybe even cry a little.  

One of these days you’re gonna love me.”

Stephanie Staples, CSP* is the author of When Enlightening Strikes – Creating a Mindset for Uncommon Success and an internationally acclaimed motivational speaker. She empowers audiences & clients across North America to bring their ‘A’ game to work and to life. Stephanie has a special interest in working with and empowering nurses and healthcare providers. She happily calls Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada home.  You can get loads of complimentary resources to help with issues such as work/life balance, wellness, stress management and happiness in general, as well as find out more information about her coaching and speaking services at http://www.YourLifeUnlimited.ca.

* Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), conferred by the National Speakers Association is the speaking profession’s international measure of professional platform proficiency. Less than 10 percent of speakers have earned this credential and are recognized as some of the best in their fields. Stephanie was one of only five professional speakers in  Canada (and the only woman) to attain this designation in 2013.

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