Feb. 8, 2021

REGRETS....I'VE HAD A FEW...AND I CAN HARDLY BEAR TO THINK ABOUT THEM.

In the mid-seventies, one of my job responsibilities with AETN--- Arkansas Educational Television Network---was to establish a first-ever volunteer organization called “The Friends of AETN.”  I produced television commercials and directed mail campaigns to attract “Friends” memberships. While traveling in North Arkansas—in search of more Memberships, I spoke to several men’s organizations and met one of Arkansas’s future Celebrities. I’m proud to say this outstanding gentleman—Sam Walton---also became one of my most-memorable friends.

 At the time, there were only a few Walmart stores scattered across Northwest Arkansas and---two stores in Little Rock. After Sam Walton introduced himself, he wasted no time thanking me for attracting fashion-minded customers to his Markham Street Store in Little Rock.

 Puzzled how Sam Walton heard about the style shows I’d created and directed at his Little Rock Stores…. I soon learned store-managers had sent my exclusive fashion show videos directly to Sam.  He was able to watch the fashion shows I designed, directed and moderated while featuring Walmart employees—both male and female—modeling Walmart clothes.

 Minutes after complimenting me on the fashion shows, Sam Walton offered me a job. I was pleasantly surprised and, before I could answer, Sam Walton said “If you’re interested, stop by my office on your way back to Little Rock and we’ll talk about it.”

I never fail to smile—each time I “picture” Sam Walton’s “office” in Bentonville. Located in just a small corner at the back of his overly-crowded Walmart Warehouse, Sam’s office consisted of nothing more than an old, scarred wooden desk, with two metal folding chairs. Sam wasn’t big on impressing anyone and…he certainly didn’t believe in wasting valuable time just “beating-around-the-bush”. Within minutes of ushering me to one of the well-worn folding chairs, Sam said, “I’m offering you a job as my public relations director but there’s one hitch—you have to move to Bentonville.”

Looking back, Sam Walton’s job offer would have been the turning point in my professional career. What a shame I didn’t “jump on his offer” and immediately say “YES”.    Instead, I asked for time to discuss his lifetime offer with my daughters.

Before I left, Sam announced his stock was about to go public and, knowing I was a single mother with two daughters, advised me to begin my pathway to financial success…by buying a few shares of Walmart Stock every month. He said “It won’t be long before you’ll be “set” for life.” That day, I received a once-in-a-lifetime job offer as well as priceless advice from a business-genius.

Unfortunately, I didn’t accept either offer. In only a few years, Sam Walton was listed as the wealthiest man in America.

In the meantime, I confronted my daughters with Sam Walton’s generous job offer, and heard “Mother, you can’t move us to some hick-town in North Arkansas” and “Why would you force us to leave our friends! We’re happy in Little Rock!” And finally, “Daddy will be really mad if you take us way-up-there and so will Ro and Papaw!!!!” They cried—I cried---and they won.

 I had built my life around my daughters; I couldn’t bear for them to be unhappy so….the next day… I had the uneasy task of calling Sam Walton.  Embarrassed to have to decline such an amazing opportunity…I reluctantly said:  “Sorry, Sam, I can’t accept your job offer. My daughters are heartbroken at the thought of leaving their friends and moving to Bentonville.”

The last time I saw Sam Walton was 1983, at his Walmart store in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Earlier in the day, Sam had called my Mayoral Campaign Headquarters and asked me to join him for coffee. We talked about many things before he handed me a political contribution in the amount of two hundred fifty dollars.

Before saying our goodbyes, Sam asked if I’d taken his advice about buying some Walmart stock every month. I hated to admit that I hadn’t taken his advice…that I was too-scared to “gamble” with any of my small income. I tried to explain that every dime of my money needed to be in the “safety” of a bank.

When I finished with all of my excuses, Sam looked at me, smiled sympathetically, and said “Miss Sally, I’m so sorry you aren’t taking my advice. I only want the best for you.  Buying my stock would give you real money in a few years and…you would no-longer need to work”.

It took a while but eventually---I knew I should have taken Sam’s advice.  Yes, timing is everything. Today, I recognize that hindsight is too-often a constant reminder of our missed opportunities. In the end… our biggest regret will be--- ALL THE CHANCES WE NEVER TOOK.   

Sally