Did you ever have someone offer to do something really nice for you but you were not in a position to totally accept their kindness? Well I have and it is an awkward, terrible, unforgettable feeling.
In reflecting on people who have had an influence on me in my life, the name Charlie Aiken always comes to mind, not necessarily because of what he did, rather for what he offered to do for me. It is really a bitter sweet story.
Charlie (Mr. Aiken to me at the time) owned the only departmental store in Dresden and just happened to be band master for the Dresden Community Band. He was a neat, trim, gentle man who greeted townsfolk with a smile and polite nod of acknowledgement. He also lived just two doors from my family's home and was a good neighbour.
My father Ken passed away when I was 14 years of age and Charlie, bless his heart, took it upon himself on one occasion to fill the void in my young life. Knowing of my interest in music at the time, he invited me to attend a parade in Chatham that was featuring a large number of marching bands. He treated me to an ice cream sundae at a restaurant on the King Street parade route and regaled me with stories about when he was a young man starting out in business.
Fifteen minutes into the parade itself he suddenly turned to me and asked: "How would you like to come and work in my store part-time after school?"
Taken by surprise, I felt a twinge in the pit of my stomach. "What am I going to say?" I asked myself. "This can't be happening!"
Mustering up all my adolescent courage, I blurted out: "I'm sorry, but just yesterday Don Weese asked me to work in his store (Don Weese Men's Wear) and I'm going to be starting on Saturday."
"Oh, that's too bad, but I understand," Charlie responded, quickly drawing my attention to the colourful uniforms of one of the passing bands. The subject was never discussed again and I do not remember much about the remainder of the day other than how terrible I felt for not being able to accept the kind job offer. I not only felt awkward for myself, but sorry for Charlie too. It was like I was letting him down after he had been so thoughtful.
Just my luck...Two first job offers in a 24-hour period and I didn't ask for either one.
Almost 59 years later and I still feel badly about what I had to say in response to a well-intended gesture. But what a nice thing it was that Charlie tried to do for me, out of the goodness of his heart.
It was my first experience at having to say something very difficult to someone. I have never been very good at it.