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Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda
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By Sheryl Scott

Hey. Question. Do you have any coulda, shoulda, wouldas? You know, things you coulda done, what you shoulda done and, if given the chance to go back and change it…you definitely woulda!

Oh…they can be anything. Like you shoulda chosen healthier snacks when you watched the Superbowl or you coulda won a car if you’d only bought one more Roll Up The Rim. Or ya woulda married someone different if you knew then what ya know now!

Yeah… O.K. that last one was supposed to be a joke…

Sigh. This is where I sigh. Cause I have a coulda, shoulda, woulda. A pretty big one.

Before our family moved to London, I worked for Home Health Services on Toronto. Most days were spent driving to the homes of patients, checking to make sure they were doing well, being given the proper care…stuff like that.

I covered quite a wide district in the greater T.O. area - so, in any given day, I might find my self in a multi-million dollar home, a middle-class ranch and a run-down 1 bedroom apartment.

The outside of the homes were very different, but the inside was always the same - people whose physical conditions were serious enough that their lives had been radically altered.

One day, I drove to a particular address in a lower economic neighborhood. I sat in my car for a few minutes, reading the chart to make sure I knew the situation before heading in.

The family had recently emigrated from Mexico - so I knew they probably had little support in terms of family members or longtime friends. There was a husband, wife and 2 little boys - 7 and 3 years old.

The 7 year old had been diagnosed with adrenoleukodystrophy - the topic of the movie Lorenzo’s Oil. Adrenoleukodystrophy is genetic and fatal.

The mother invited me in.

Her 7 year old lay on the couch. He was very thin, wore a diaper and had a feeding tube in his nose. He was unable to communicate in anyway.

In broken English, his mother told me that he was blind and deaf and at this point, touch was the last available means of communication she had with her first born son.

She took me to a cupboard to show me her son's medication. I noticed that other than the medicine, the shelves were practically bare. In fact, the house contained very little furniture - very little food.

I asked her if she had anyone who could help? She shook her head. Their insurance only covered 8 hours of nursing a week.

I asked her about her husband's availability to help. She told me her husband had left her.

I said, "Do you mean he's gone out of town?"

Mother: "No."

She said. He had left her.

3 weeks earlier, they had taken their son to his doctor's appointment - where he had been given 6 weeks to live…at the most. Then the doctor dropped another bomb on them - the results had come back on their 3 year old son. He, too, carried the gene for adrenoleukodystrophy. He would most likely come down with his first symptoms within the next year.

This was more then the mother could bear…she wept. It was more than the father could bear…he left.

Now, people who know me know that I am not an overly emotional person. On the Myers-Briggs personality inventory, I tend to be a "thinker" rather than a "feeler." When faced with difficult situations, I move into action mode.

But this situation was a nightmare unfolding to me. I had no answers. The only thing I felt was overwhelming sadness and pain. As a home-health nurse, I’d seen a lot of desperate situations, but never anything like this.

Well, I finished up the conversation as professionally as I could. I told her I would communicate with the nurse in charge and said she was doing a good job taking care of her sons. Then I left.

Almost on autopilot, I started my car and just drove around the block. Then I pulled over and the tears came. Tears and a deep ache in my chest.

After a few minutes, my "thinker" kicked in. I started writing. I had ideas. I could help. Others could too. I mean, I knew a lot of people who would be more than willing.

There were things that could be done…things that would make a difference.

Before I knew it, I had filled the paper with ideas….like babysitting, meal preparation, groceries, gas, gift certificates, housecleaning. Nothing could take away the pain of losing two children, but help could ease some of the difficulty.

It felt great to connect compassion and action! The practical presence of God could be a powerful force in the darkness of this Mother's world. The deep ache in my heart began to lessen just a bit.

Now, before I go on, I want to ask you something…because this is important.

Of all the things that I wrote down on that piece of paper, what do you think was the very first thing I did?

Go on, take a guess. What did I do before anything else?

Sometimes I tell this story and someone calls out, "Prayer!"

Great answer. I wish it had been mine. No, I didn't start with prayer.

I'll tell you. I did absolutely nothing.

I don't mean I did absolutely nothing that day or the following week…then I got started. I mean I did absolutely nothing….EVER.

Disappointing eh? Even shocking. That this is the punchline of the story. Yeah, I know. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if you hated me just a little bit. I'm not proud of the way I responded, but I tell you this because maybe, just maybe, you might recognize yourself in this story.

Maybe there was some time in your life, when you saw something pivotal that deeply affected you…and you meant to do something…..but….

Intentions are wonderful things….but in and of themselves, intentions are completely inadequate. The ole saying… " It's the thought that counts." - not true.

Pivotal moments are only as good as the lifestyles they translate into.

(Narrator moves into living room scene)

I've thought many times about that day.

Mother: What happened?

Narrator: I'm not sure.

Mother: What was it? Selfishness? Busyness? Forgetfulness?

Narrator: The answer's probably yes…to all the above.

But now, years after, my best thinking on it is this…It matters how you live.

Sometimes God causes pivotal circumstances to intersect with our regular lives. And we fail…to respond…to act…to change.

It's sad. But sadness helps us understand our need for Jesus.

Our need to respond pivotal moments.

I could've done something for that family. I should've done something for that family. I wish I would've done something for that family.

3 of the most pivotal words…

Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda…

True story based on a chapter in the book titled, God Is Closer Than You Think, by Nancy Beach. (names and places have been changed)(performed as a monologue at Forest City Community Church)