Mar. 23, 2022

WHEN LIFE ENDS--THERE WILL BE REGRETS.

In the mid-seventies, one of my responsibilities as WOMEN'S DIRECTOR FOR  AETN--- Arkansas Educational Television Network---was to establish a first-ever Volunteer Organization called “THE FRIENDS OF AETN.” 

I produced television commercials and direct-mail campaigns to attract “Friends” memberships--in addition to introducing "FRIENDS" at various service organizations.  While traveling and speaking in North Arkansas--- I met one of Arkansas’s future "Celebrities"--- a gentleman who would soon be--one of my most-memorable friends--Sam Walton.

 At the time, there were only a few Walmart stores-- scattered across Northwest Arkansas and---just three 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 voluntarily-created and directed at two of his Walmart Stores, I quickly- learned that store-managers had sent the exclusive fashion show videos to Sam.  He was able to watch the fashion shows I designed, directed, and moderated while---featuring Walmart employees—both male and female—as  Models.    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 seriously- interested, stop by my office on your way back to Little Rock and we’ll discuss the details.”

I smile, just remembering Sam Walton’s “office” in Bentonville. Located at the back of one of his Walmart Warehouses, 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 didn’t believe in wasting valuable time--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 is one hitch—you will need to move to Bentonville.”

 Looking back, Sam Walton’s job offer would have been a major turning point in my business career. What a shame I didn’t “jump on his offer” and immediately say “YES”.    Instead, I asked for time to discuss his offer of a lifetime-- with my two 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 start- buying a few shares of his stock each month. He said “It won’t take long before you’ll be “fixed” for life.” That day, I received A once-in-a-lifetime job offer--- as well as priceless advice from a business-genius.

As soon as I returned home, 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 make us 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 Poppaw!!!!” They cried—I cried---and they won.   I’d 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.” 

ALL THESE YEARS LATER-- I regret not accepting Sam’s job offer and---not purchasing some of Sam’s stock—each month.  WHEN Sam Walton was listed as the wealthiest man in America---I wasn’t at all---surprised.

The last time I saw Sam Walton was 1983, at his Walmart store in Pine Bluff. 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 finally taken his advice about buying some Walmart stock every month. I hated to admit I was simply too-scared to “gamble” any of my very-small income, believing I had to put every dime in the “safety” of a bank. 

When I finished with 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 have given you real money in a few years and---you would no-longer have to work.”

“MY BIGGEST REGRETS WILL BE THE MANY OPPORTUNITIES AND PRICELESS ADVICE--- I NEVER TOOK.”

SALLY