My last post was about facing a feeling regret after the fact. So many times we are in situations where we regret our actions, but really can’t do anything about them. Like with the friend I wrote about in my last post who I did not reach out to until it was too late. He was gone and I could not fix that.
But sometimes you DO have the opportunity to go back and meet a situation head on and overcome it to assuage your regret.
This week my travels took me to the upper Hudson Valley, north of Albany to meet with a sales team and do some training. It meant being in town for two nights, as I planned a number of stops on my way back down the Hudson River toward New Jersey and home. And I had an encounter that helped me deal with the regret that I have been feeling for over forty years.
Bear with me while I digress into the back story, so that you will understand the impact of what happened and how much this encounter means to me
A good part of what I do in my life revolves around music. I sing choral music, I play guitar and sing at a local restaurant, I have played in Wedding Bands, Symphony Orchestras, and I am part of our Contemporary Music Worship team at my church. When I am not playing, I am listening, mostly to Classical music, but also Jazz, Latin and many other genres.
And my talents in music and my interests do not come without the blessings of having a wonderful foundation in my early years. My first instrumental music teacher was someone who mentored me not just in grade school, but through my high school years, and even as an adult (he hired me to teach at his music store when I was in my early 20s). I also had a choral teacher in grade school who incorporated theory lessons along with our general music class, so when I started high school, I was way ahead of most of my peers.
In my sophomore year of high school, a new teacher arrived, and challenged and encouraged anyone who wanted to excel in their music studies to strive for their best. Between him and the Choral Director, new classes and ensembles were introduced into the curriculum, so that by the time I reached my Junior year, I was taking five music classes a day (including Band, Theory, History, Chorus, and extra-curricular ensembles in Jazz and Madrigals). My Band Director was an inspiration to me and to many of my fellow students who I have stayed in touch with over the years. A number of them have gone on to careers as full-time professional musicians, composers, jazz performers, recording artists, as well as teachers.
Unfortunately, my high school music career and the relationship what I had with my band director went sour during my senior year, to the point where I quit band and the music program altogether. This was the result of some issues that came up in my Music School application process where I did not get the opportunity to audition at my number one college choice. My father came to my defense in the process and in part because of his vocal criticisms to the Board and Administration at the school, the band director that did so much to advance my musical skills and interests, was denied tenure.
I left high school angry, and decided to major in Architecture, attending Louisiana State University. My music career went on hold until I came to my senses (translation – bombed out of Architecture School), and transferred to the Music School at Montclair State University, where I got my degree.
At the same time, God was working His mysteries and His miracles. My Band Director, in the midst of the turmoil of being denied a permanent job at a great school, felt God’s calling on him to go into the ministry. And as he became a minister to God’s church, I heard from time to time of his progress and was even given a cassette copy of his first sermon (which I still have). I often wondered what became of him, and felt a great sense of regret through the years over the pain I probably caused him and his family (he was married with two young daughters).
With the onset of the Internet and search engines (and everybody’s every detail being on line), I was able to locate him around 2002, and had a brief visit at the church he led in Flemington, NJ. We only talked briefly about family and careers (by this time I had started a career in the field of sales), and avoided the topic of our history…
He moved a couple of times after that and I never did follow up to speak to or visit him after that encounter.
Until this week…
SO, here I was in the Hudson Valley on a Wednesday night. A while back, my curiosity had led me to look him up and I found that he was living near Saratoga where I would be staying this week. I figured out from his denomination that there was a church near my hotel that he probably belonged to and determined to visit the church and inquire about him.
So I paid a visit to Shenendahowa Methodist Church the other night. I went into the Fellowship hall to see it there might be a Bible study or small group meeting, only to interrupt an AA meeting by mistake. I sheepishly backed out of the building back into the parking lot to retreat to my car, and gave up on my endeavor.
But there was a couple getting out of their car in the church parking lot, walking toward the house next door which I assumed was the parsonage. So I approached the woman and introduced myself, saying something like “I really am not a stalker, but my name is Dan and I was wondering if the band director I had in high school forty-plus years ago, was a member of the congregation.” She didn’t recognize his name, but introduced me to Pastor Lee, to whom I gave my calling card and simply asked him to pass my name along. I returned to my car, figuring that maybe I would hear from him, but probably not.
But just before I started my car, the woman knocked on my window, and in typical Methodist style, invited me to join the barbecue that they were having at the parsonage. So I shared a meal with this group of strangers, a few of whom knew my band director, and midway through the meal, as the pastor and I were sharing stories, he decided to call and see if he could get us on the phone together. More than that, I found myself invited to the home of the man whose career I had helped change(!) some four and a half decades earlier.
We talked for about two hours at his home, and discussed the events of his leaving teaching for the ministry, and how he felt about the circumstances of his termination. I share with him about the fact that I had returned to music, and what an important part of my life it was. And how much I was indebted to his teaching. I spoke of how badly I felt about how things went, but he had the grace to share his testimony with me, and how wonderful his life in ministry had been and how blessed he felt. He said he was glad that we had this chance to talk and I hugged him as we parted. I hope to be able to visit him again, but if I don’t at least I know that we had the opportunity to talk and to reconcile.
And today I feel a bit less regret. And I am thankful for God’s grace, and His willingness to afford us all second chances. A chance to reconcile. A chance to heal relationships. A chance to re-connect.
Don’t wait. If you feel a need to reconcile with someone in your life, find them and talk it out.