I Should Have Said

October 28, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog

I am declaring war against “should have, would have, and could have”.

Someone just called and in a conversation challenged me by indicating I was not sensitive to African-Americans because I didn’t think the use of the word “colored” in the original lyrics of the song “Ol’ Man River” written almost 100 years ago by Oscar Hammerstein for the wonderful musical Showboat, was a racist lyric.

I pointed out that during that period “colored” was the way polite southerners referred to African Americans. I further pointed out that Showboat had a book by Edna Ferber, taken from her previously written novel, and one of the central themes of the story described the pain that was caused by racial prejudice. I mentioned that Hammerstein was the same man who wrote the lyric in the classic musical South Pacific for the song “You’ve Got To Be Taught” which told how children went through indoctrination to learn “to hate and fear” people of different races. I described the original cast of Showboat which employed more African-American actors than any mainstream musical theater production prior to it’s opening on Broadway. I went on and on. Finally I ran out of steam, said “Goodbye” and hung up the phone.

As soon as I  had finished the conversation,  more and more thoughts popped into my head, I should have said such and such or what if I told him such and such, finally I calmed down enough to realize that these “should have” thoughts were useless. Then I started thinking about how wasted are the thoughts that consider what one should have said or should have done. So now, I’m clear, there is no turning back. There are no second chances to get back what has been done.

I am left with only two options. The first is when I talk to someone, when I interact with someone, when I am with someone, I have to try to remember I can’t turn back the clock.

So I realize I should tell the people I love that I love them. I should take the time to be careful that nothing I do hurts or upsets the people I come in contact with.  I should pay attention when I meet people with needs and help when I can.

The other option is that when I fail to live up to this, I should immediately correct it. I shouldn’t stew over what I should have done or could have done or would have done if I had thought of it then, I should try to find a way to cure the mistake instantly. I should try to go back and find out if there is something I can do for the person in need, if there is something I can do or say to soothe the hurt I have caused unthinkingly, if I can tell someone I love that I love them.

Let’s all look around and see where we have messed up and let’s try to cure it because feeling guilty isn’t a cure for anything.