While visiting with friends recently someone asked the question, “If you could go back in time and do one thing differently, what would it be?”
My answer was that I would be more patient with my children when they were tiny instead of getting upset over little things. And that is true. I really do wish I had been as patient then as I am now, as I think it would have saved us all some grief.
But the truth is, given the chance, there is something else I would do.
I would be nice to Marta.
Marta was a little 8-year-old girl with a congenital heart defect from Nicaragua, who came to live with us while awaiting heart surgery.
And she drove me crazy.
I was 12 at the time and found her very irritating. She would follow me around during the day, would often get into my things, and at dinner time would hurry and sit in my seat. I was convinced her bothersome behavior was intentionally planned to bug me.
So I tried to avoid her, got after her for playing with my things and even gave her a dirty look under the table before family prayer when once again she stole my seat.
But after she went into the hospital, I began to feel bad for the way I treated her. I realized she was young and far from home in a country where she didn’t even speak the language. She had to be very lonely and also very scared.
I decided that when she came back to stay with us during her recovery, I would be the friend I should have been in the beginning.
But I never got the chance to apologize. I never got the chance to make her feel welcome.
Marta died on the operating table.
I think it would be hard for anyone to imagine the guilt I carried with me for many years after that. I thought often of the little lonely girl, so far away from her family, so afraid and treated so unkindly.
So if I could go back in time to do something differently than I did before, I would be nice to Marta. At least then, during her last week on earth, she would have had a friend.