Every now and then I find myself caught up in and perhaps thinking too long about shortcuts I have taken and mistakes I have made. It is easy when in one of those periodic down-cycles to reflect on what one has done and where one has been. But, be careful; if you linger in there too long, it can lead you into a spiral of over-analasys or destructive interspection.
That is when I force myself to recall a book I once read called “The Bridge of San Luis Rey.” It is Thornton Wilder‘s second novel and tells the story of several interrelated people who die in the collapse of an Inca rope bridge in Peru, and the many simple events that lead up to their being on the bridge at the time. Although I read it a long time ago, it has always remained with me. I was so impressed with how each of the small, seemingly insignificant decisions each of the major plot characters made that influenced in some seemingly small yet eventually epic way, their arrival on that bridge at that precise moment.
When I look around me and I see the love of a very good wife; experience the joy of children growing into strong thoughtful adults; and the embrace of a community that I know and that knows me where I can be of service, then I remember that there are no insignificant events. Every step, every moment and each decision along the journey has its impact on our direction, speed, and outcomes; that each of our many choices, mistakes, even shortcuts have put us exactly where we are at the moment.
Just think of the times you have shared, or someone has shared with you, a story of how just one minute later, or one minute earlier and some fateful event would have been yours, or theirs, or someone’s… Then think of all the times you stopped to help someone; if even for a moment. Or maybe more significantly, the times when you might have helped someone and didn’t. Ever remember engaging in a conversation with a dear friend, loved-one or child that you might have cur off or avoided and didn’t. How about times when you might have but walked away with some excuse hanging in the air behind you. They all matter…
So, when I get down to those moments of interspection and bouts of what if, I just recall Thorton Wilder and his Bridges exploration. And from where I stand, with the people I love and who love me, I don’t believe I would change a thing. So the next time you are tempted to linger on your regrets, remember; you wern’t on that bridge when it fell.