‘I would have done a lot of things different!’

Published 3:47 pm Thursday, April 25, 2024

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By Lloyd Albritton


This is the title to a popular country song written by Bill Anderson and Dean Dillon, first released by Bill Anderson in 2001, and later covered by several other popular singers, including John Conlee and Kenny Chestney. It is what I call “a talking song,” a melodious lyric.

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The original lyrics to the song suggest a few things the author says he would have done differently if he had known then what he knows now.  He croons, “I would have stood up to that bully when he pushed and called me names, but I was afraid.  I would have spent more time with my dad when he was alive.  Now I don’t have the chance.  I would have told my brother how much I loved him before he went off to war, but I just shook his hand.  I would have gone to see Elvis that night he came to town, but Mama said I couldn’t.  I would have gone to church on Sunday morning with my grandma when she begged me to, but I didn’t like church as good as Grandma did.  I should have bought my wife that red dress she wanted so bad she could taste it, but I didn’t.  I didn’t think we could afford it.  But, we could’ve.  She wanted to paint our bedroom yellow, trimmed in blue and green, but I wouldn’t let her.  It wouldn’t have hurt nuthin’.  She loved to be held and kissed and touched, but I didn’t do it.  And if I had known that was going to be our last dance, I would’ve asked the band to play on and on and on.  Oh yes, I would have done a lot of things different.  People say they wouldn’t change a thing even if they could.  But, I would.  Oh, I would.”

When a songwriter conjures up a sentiment shared by lots of people, and delivers that idea or thought in a unique melody, not surprisingly, he may find himself with a hit song on his hands.  This song is of that ilk.  In fact, any one of us might have written the lyrics to this song substituting some of the things we would do differently.

Let’s try it, shall we? I will write my lyrics here and you can afterward write yours:  If I were a young man going to school again, and knowing what I know now, I would pay closer attention in the classroom instead of horse-playing and goofing off so much.  I would learn how to read musical notes and to play at least one musical instrument, but I didn’t.  Playing football was the most important thing to me then.  The fact is, I was never a very good football player and I have not played football since high school.  It was not a skill I really needed.  I do, however, enjoy singing in church every Sunday and singing in the shower.  If I had known then what I know now, I would have spent more time thinking seriously about what kind of career I wanted for myself and I would have gone to college right out of high school to prepare for it.  Oh how I might have excelled as a journalist, an educator, or a psychologist.  But, I didn’t.  I joined the Marines and got married and raised three beautiful children and went to college on my GI Bill, a little here and a little there, while working and supporting a family.  I floundered through several career changes until I became an old man with not enough time left for another career and not enough money to comfortably retire.  I should’ve done better.  I could’ve done better.  But, I didn’t!

I should’ve never gone inactive in my church and lost my moral bearings, but I did.  I should’ve stayed married to my first wife and I should’ve never married my second wife at all, but I didn’t and I did.  Then we could’ve been celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays together with our children and grandchildren in our old age, but we don’t.  I should’ve been more mindful of the influence of my life and my behavior on others, but I wasn’t.  I should’ve spend more time in my life serving others, but I didn’t.  I thought my life was all about me and that I could find happiness by serving myself, but I didn’t.

In his famous poem, The Road Less Traveled, Robert Frost suggests that all roads equally lay untrodden and that our goal should be to make the best of whichever path we choose.  I have not found life to be exactly so, but rather a process of choosing wisely and thoughtfully the right road to begin with, the strait and narrow path which leads to life (Matthew 7:14).  When we thoughtlessly choose the broader path, the wrong road, if you will, it often leads to a dead end or even to destruction.  I have chosen the wrong path many times in my life, and I have wasted a great deal of time backtracking to get back on the right road, finding myself far behind where I might have otherwise been.

Truly, if I had known then what I know now, I would have done a lot of things differently.  I think this is perhaps the common law of life for most of us.  I think the bigger question is, “Now that I finally do know better, am I doing better?  Am I doing things differently?  Well, I’m trying.  And though I am far behind where I ought to be in life, God is daily lengthening my stride, quickening my pace and lightening my load, even sending me wings in disguise (like, for example, a third wife).  I think it is never too late to start doing things differently.  We cannot change the past, but we can change the future, and that is what counts most.