We live in an unforgiving world. Most times when we make a mistake we do not get a second chance to go back and correct our error, no opportunity to reclaim our worth to society. We have to go on from there.
We hear the expression: “If only I had it to do over again…”
And if we would get that second chance what would we do? Given all of the circumstances surrounding our original decision would we really act differently? I suspect the answer would surprise us.
Yet, every now and then, we are confronted with the fabled “second chance.” I had the opportunity once, in an extraordinary experience, and it is still with me. It happened while I was the public relations director for an organization that was committed to advancing the cause of private enterprise in outer space.
We were holding a big conference in Los Angeles and we had many notable guests of honor, including the noted science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury.
Bradbury, author of such books as “Fahrenheit 451,” “Martian Chronicles,” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” is an unassuming, charming man with some strange phobias. For example, he doesn’t drive a car or fly in airplanes. Despite living in one of the world’s largest cities he takes a bus or bums a ride whenever he travels.
As the days went by, I noticed that people at the conference were drawing together more closely together, bonding in small groups where they were discussing art and society, as well as outer space.
In one of the sessions, Bradbury got out several old poems that he had published and started reading them. I was on duty, standing in the rear doorway, help participants.
As the reading progressed the audience became visibly moved. Several people, including Bradbury, were in tears. When he finished the reading, a number of people moved to the front to speak to him personally. More tears – and hugs all around.
As Bradbury spoke to the group, he quietly made his way to the back of the room. Suddenly, and with some degree of shock, I realized that he was going to leave through the doorway where I was standing, and that I would have to make a decision about granting a hug.
Quickly, I tried to figure out how I felt about that. All sorts of thoughts involving intimacy, sexuality and personality were running through my mind. I decided to just let things take their course.
As Bradbury took another step toward me I found myself walking down the hall, several steps ahead of him.
That night, I was really bothered by my action. I remembered the words of a young lady who had called me “The Observer” for being aloof and distant. It bothered me. Here was a writer whose success I envied, a human being who I admired, and yet I had balked at the prospect of showing affection for him in public.
That night I saw myself as few people really want to see themselves. I wished I could have another chance, but doubted that I ever would.
The next morning as I was walking toward the entrance of the building I heard my name being called. I turned to see Bradbury walking toward me. He was smiling, and he had his arms out.
That was 25 years ago and I have never forgotten the moment. I doubt I ever will. It spoke volumes about the chance encounters that make up some of our best moments.
I know now that there are few second chances in life. For whatever reasons, I had been given a chance to redeem myself, something that happens all too rarely in the normal course of events. Immediately I saw the situation for what it was.
And I made the most of it.