Volume 17 Number2
My Biggest Mistake
01 April 2004

Since I was 11 my foster mother had indicated many times that she’d be glad to see me go.

I was 14, and had been fostered on and off since birth. My mother visited me regularly and paid for my upkeep. But since I was 11 my foster mother had indicated many times that she’d be glad to see me go—she blew hot and cold.

I recall standing in her kitchen; she had a letter— apparently my mother and the man she later married, Laurie, had arranged for me to go to a boarding school in Devon. The first I’d heard of it.

Did I want to go, my foster mother asked me? Inside I felt exhilaration—also a little trepidation. I didn’t realize I had a choice, but she was implying I had. She was dead against it. ‘If you want to go there, with your mother’s foreign friends, after all I’ve sacrificed for you—well!’

I was in turmoil. If I said yes, it looked like rank ingratitude. I wanted to go, but mumbled that I'd stay. That was my really big mistake.

I was ‘encouraged’ to write to my mother saying I never wanted to see her again. It meant stopping going up to London to see her and Laurie, in the advertising agency he owned. She stopped her payments, and I had to go out to work. So I lost my mother, a new father, and my inheritance.

Nine years later I was praying the Lord’s Prayer—’forgive us...as we forgive those who trespass against us’. It dawned on me that I’d nursed resentment towards my mother. I finally found her and apologized—the hardest decision I ever made, but the most creative.
John Munro, Arundel

When you make important decisions, on issues such as marriage and career, you know little about their consequences. I am now doubtful about my decision to become a teacher. My heart was in something else that was more ‘me’, something I often dreamed about sitting in my car on my way home after a difficult day at school.

A very sad story? It is like that for many people.

The time I was alone with a class in the training school of the college and it ended in chaos was decisive. I decided, ‘From now on I will just do my best without trying to please anyone.’

I approached many of my classes with fear. Thinking it over during periods of quiet before work, I found a new way of teaching, talking much less myself. But sometimes I had to apologize for my short temper.

Most importantly, because of my faith I had got something bigger than myself and what happened to me to live for. And when I failed I could seek forgiveness and start anew.

Growing older, and also because of my bad hearing, the noise and stress at school became too much for me. So nine years before reaching retirement age I stopped teaching in class and did other less satisfying things. Perhaps this was the price of choosing the wrong career?

We should not be too afraid of having made mistakes. Life must go on. A friend said to me: ‘God can often bless and use also the wrong things which we have done in faith.’ I would add, that he can use anything we have done that we have turned over to him. Even if it wasn’t the right or best decision to become a teacher, I took it in faith. Somehow, despite that, it became blessed anyway.
Jerker Mila, Sweden/The Netherlands

I am a cautious and reserved accountant, who has spent most of his life checking other people’s work.

On one occasion, when checking a tax assessment, I fiddled the results. My boss found out. He was not amused. Luckily the client did not suffer.

I was brought up by Godfearing parents, who sometimes knocked the fear of God into me! I well remember my father chasing me around a room for something I had said that annoyed him!

They taught me to live by absolute standards and the guidance of God—something for which I shall always be grateful. That gave me direction for my personal life. But it was only after I retired that I received a sense of a greater calling—the part I was meant to play in remaking society in industry. I wish I had let God speak to me earlier, and then accepted that bigger vision for my life.
Tony Thomas, London

One of the biggest mistakes I ever made—in terms of its inescapable visibility to a great number of people—happened while I was living in India. I was helping in the circulation department of the Mumbaibased English-language weekly Himmat,. One of my tasks each week was to commission the fly posters which, with some intriguing headline, would help sell the latest issue.

We wished to highlight our coverage of one of the very first airliner hijackings in the Middle East, one where the plane was eventually blown up in the desert.

I intended the poster to scream, Drama in the desert. But, because of a certain haziness of mine over basic spelling, what people read on posters splashed all over Mumbai was a headline that seemed to have more of a domestic flavour about it:Drama in the dessert!
Paul Williams, Bangor, Wales

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