Regret is a powerful emotion that often scars our hearts and disturbs our minds. Most of us have regretted our words, deeds, or choices at some point in our lives. How many nights have we tossed and turned over our guilt and rue the day we made a remorseful decision?

The truth is we cannot redo any of our past regrets. They are part of who we are, but it is what we learn from them that becomes of significance in our life story.

During this time, when a pandemic has stopped our world from spinning normally, it has allowed me to view life with a new pair of lenses. I see citizens of the world who generously aid others. Countless numbers have leaped into action on the front lines of medicine without fear. Others have delivered food, made masks, developed ideas, and shared joy and hope through social media and telecommunications. These are the very members of our living world who will sleep well at night after long, tiring days of encouraging and healing their fellow humans. They will have no regrets.

Some folks could and should regret the day they kept spreading division, only worried about their selfish world, gave little to others, and broke all health regulations during this crisis. They fail to realize that one broken rule leads to many broken hearts. Their poor decisions spill poison into innocent souls everywhere.

We are given the free will to decide how we will handle ourselves amid adversity. However, it is how we behave when faced with a challenge that will become the record of our days.

My mother and father were products of the Great Depression. When my father was born in 1914, he watched his father and baby sister die in the flu epidemic of 1918 after his dad returned from battle in World War I. Afterwards, the Great Depression swept the land, followed by World War II.

My mother told the story of the magical chicken that saved her family during the collapse of our economy. The hen suddenly began to lay an abundance of eggs during the Depression. They had so many eggs they gave them to other hungry families. Mom always said, “That old sweet magical hen must have been a gift from God!”

My dad would retell the account of purchasing his first car many times. He signed his first bank loan on his shiny Chevy just before the Great Depression. When Dad could no longer make the payments, he embarrassingly had to return the car to the bank his uncle owned! Dad swore to never borrow money again. Until his death at age 85, my father never asked for another dime.

Those were the days when most folks helped one another and learned from their mistakes. For those of us whose parents or grandparents endured such hardship, we know their lives were altered forever from the countless tough times they experienced. They weren’t called “The Greatest Generation” for nothing. Their narratives are etched into our hearts, written into our history books, teaching us what united American courage really is.

Sometimes I believe my brave family is watching from heaven to see how we are handling our own depressed, fearful times. When I fret over when I might get to a nail salon, I envision my grandmother’s hands with dirt under her nails, digging for worms to catch fish to feed her family. As I long to have dinner with a large group of friends, I see Mom delivering those magical eggs to feed others. When I jump in the car to pick up a pizza, I watch Dad walking to work carrying his lunch pail.

My teenage granddaughter was bored to tears the other day as we talked over the phone. “Well, honey, I’ll bet you will tell your children and grandchildren about the spring of 2020 when the world stopped spinning. These monotonous days will surely cause you to be thankful for those busy days when you once fussed about too much homework or too much dance practice. Right?”

“Yes, I won’t ever complain about those things again!” she responded with a laugh.

It is what we learn from where we have been that our story will unfold. Once the world begins to spin again, will we do more for others, will we work harder, will we be filled with more appreciation for all things in our lives? Will our life story be filled with regret, or will a child one day hear our whispered accounts from a place called heaven?

Regret or respect? It is our choice.

Lynn Gendusa of Roswell is the author of “It’s All Write with Me!” Essays from my heart. She can be reached at www.lynngendusa.com.

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