No Regrets

Not many people have heard of Bill Havens. But Bill became an unlikely hero of sorts – at least among those who knew him best. Here is his story:

At the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris, the sport of canoe racing was added to the list of international competitions. The favorite team in the four-man canoe race was the United States team. One member of that team was a young man by the name of Bill Havens.

As the time for the Olympics neared, it became clear that Bill’s wife would give birth to their first child about the time that the US team would be competing in the Paris games. In 1924 there were no jet airliners from Paris to the United States, only slow ocean-going ships. And so, Bill found himself in a dilemma. Should he go to Paris and risk not being at his wife’s side when their baby was born? Or should he withdraw from the team and remain with his family?

Bill’s wife insisted that he go to Paris. After all, competing in the Olympics was the culmination of a lifelong dream. But Bill felt conflicted and, after much soul-searching, decided to withdraw from the competition and remain home where he could support his family. Just four days after the games (at which his brother Bud Havens and the rest of the U.S. canoe crew won three gold, one silver, and two bronze over six events), his son Frank came into the world.

People said, “What a shame.” But Bill said he had no regrets. For the rest of his life, he believed he had made the better decision.

However, there is an interesting sequel to the story of Bill Havens.…

Frank, the child born to them that year, grew to love canoeing as much as his father did. And at 28-years-old, in 1952, Frank sent his father a cablegram. It came from Helsinki, Finland, where the Olympic Games were being held. The message read: “Dear Dad, thanks for waiting around for me to get born in 1924. I’m coming home with the gold medal you should have won. Your loving son, Frank.”

Frank had set the new world record and took home the gold in the solo 10,000-meter event. He came home with the medal his father had dreamed of winning. Like I said – no regrets.

Thomas Kinkade eloquently said, “When we learn to say a deep, passionate yes to the things that really matter… then peace begins to settle into our lives like golden sunlight sifting to a forest floor.” Saying yes to the things that really matter might mean you say no to something else you want…but it’s a way to no regrets.

And so, we pray: Father, help us to never be afraid to make the decisions of the heart… the right decisions, the decisions that really matter, and to have no regrets when we do. I believe you will always honor us when we make that kind of decision… because it is not about us but about the others caught up in the decisions we make. Amen.

Grace and Peace

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