Service of Remorse: Inaction You Can’t Take Back

December 28th, 2017

Categories: Regret, Remorse


I heard a true story on WSHU Radio, an NPR station, one recent Saturday evening on, pretty sure, “The Moth Radio Hour.” It was told by a man originally from Pakistan where the story took place. His father had a good job and his mother, who stayed at home, nevertheless made money cooking and sewing. They wanted for nothing. However the children had to work to make money for frivolous things. He was good at math so he tutored other students for his pin money.

Someone told him that a local gas station was selling American hot dogs so he went to investigate and bought two. He was eating the first one on the street when he passed a man with his son. The child asked his dad for a hot dog just like the one he was munching and the father said that they couldn’t afford it.


The storyteller kept walking and to this day, he said he regretted that he’d not given the second hot dog to the child.

I have similar memories of missed opportunities to give or help or requests that I burdened others with that haunt me. Do you?


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6 Responses to “Service of Remorse: Inaction You Can’t Take Back”

  1. Lucan Said:

    You make an excellent point.

    While all of a sudden I cannot think of a specific instance of regret, particularly at Christmastime, for not having reached out to help others, I do have a continuing feeling of quilt over the years for the many times that I did not reach out to help others when I easily could have. My self-centered selfishness won out far too often.

    This is one that is definitely going into this year’s New Year’s resolution bag!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    As I’ve written previously, the impact my father had on me by saying, “Wouldn’t it be nice if you did X,” or “Shouldn’t you do Y,” was enormous and I never lived up to it though I tried and still do. That’s why this man’s story resonated with me. Nobody would want to read my list of missed opportunities starting with the charities I wish I could support but haven’t, the homebound people I should have visited but didn’t……..

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    Misdirected guilt keeps eating innocent people alive, and here is a case in point. The Moth person possibly missed an opportunity to shine, nothing more. Conversely, he might have unwittingly spared himself grief had the father refused to let his son accept the gift.

    Letting so small an incident dog him for years illustrates only negativity and suggests he learned nothing from the experience. It would have been gratifying to learn he now contributes to the welfare of the community.

  4. jmbyington Said:


    I was unable to find the interview or I’d have linked to it and listened more carefully. I recall that he said he supported charitable causes just not what and how.

  5. Deirdre Wyeth Said:

    Deirdre wrote on Facebook: I read this post on FB (or Medium?) that said: When you’ve done something you regret that you can’t fix (e.g., the guy can’t go back and give that hot dog to the child), beat yourself up for 7 seconds. Then stop. Learn from it what you can in those 7 seconds and move on. I *love* this advice and have been following it.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Great advice that I am not yet able to follow though I keep trying.

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