I Was A Thief

   They say, “confession is good for the soul”, so here goes. It happened when I was about 6 or 7 and we lived, I think in Beaumont, Texas. We had a good life, but certainly not spoiled. I think dad had a switch in every room in the house. He threatened to put a sign above one which said, “I need thee every hour”. Anyway, we had our share of ‘pine tree tea’.

   Well, one day dad took us kids to the ‘FIVE AND DIME’ store. I think it was Woolworths. Anyway, we loved that store. It had EVERYTHING a boy could wish for. The price seemed high to us. 5 cents for bubble gum! Twenty five cents for a pack of baseball cards! It came with a stick of bubble gum as well. Can’t beat that! Candy, little wooden airplanes, plastic airplanes, kites, slinkys, bags and bags of plastic army men, marbles, tinker toys, .10 comic books!!! Going there was heaven on earth to us.

   Problem… our weekly subsidy, was .25. We would have gone on strike, if we had thought of that. It wouldn’t have worked. We were just the three of us kids. Not enough for a union. We had to think all week about what we were going to get. Bob and I loved baseball cards, football cards, comic books. We were after Mickey Mantel, Roger Maris, and the others on the Yankee team. When we got one, we would trade back and forth. Spider man and Superman were the comics of choice. First editions and sets… we had ’em. We wanted more.

   Problem… we only got a measly TWENTY FIVE CENTS A WEEK. Frustrated? Most definitely. But we had to choose.

   On one occasion however, I determined to ‘out fox’ dad. Yep, I had it all figured out. We were at our favorite store. Going up and down the isle. Bob rolled down one isle, Ed went down another, dad was up at the check out area, and I was all by myself (I thought) on my isle. I got what I could pay for, and went to the check out. One by one we paid for what we got. Bob, Ed, and then me… We started out the store, and went to the car.

   Now I have to stop here and say that parents are weird. I could almost swear to you that mom and dad had the secret service working for them. Otherwise, how in the world could they know all the things we did wrong?!

   “Jack!” Now when I heard that tone of voice used with my name. It only meant one thing TROUBLE. “Come here son.” “Yes dad” I was trying to look confident. (I always failed at this.) “What you got in your hand?” I showed him the things I had legally purchased. (I thought it was over.) “What you got in your pockets?” (I was in trouble.) I pulled out a candy bar.

   Trust me, I felt guilty for doing it. I did it anyway. Now I was feeling worse. Dad said, “You stole this?” You know, when dad says that, it sounds so much worse. “Yes, dad” I said. The judgement was passed, and sentencing was immediate… “Well, here is what you are going to do. “You are going back in that store… you will walk over to the manager and hold out the candy bar, and tell him, “I STOLE THIS”, and apologize. RIGHT NOW!”

   I cannot tell you the feeling of embarrassment that crept over me. Cold sweats, knocking knees, the whole bit. I never thought of crying “THIS IS ABUSE!” No you see dad was the ‘supreme court’.

   I went back in that store, approached a man who seemed quite big to me. He said, “May I help you son?” I took a big breath and said, “Sir, Sir, I am sorry, (holding out the candy bar that my hands had taken), but I took this and didn’t pay for it.” I was expecting something like the police to come and take me to jail or something. But, no police, no reprimand. I guess he figured I was going through enough humiliation. He said, “Thank you son, thank you for doing the right thing.” I gave the not so delicious candy bar to him. Said, thank you, and went back to the car.

   Needless to say, I had disappointed dad. I had done worse, I had disappointed myself. Stealing is wrong. Paul said, “Let him that steals, steal no more.” That lesson, has always stayed with me. I have taught it to my kids, and I guess the lesson will pass down generations. (I hope).

   I owe dad a lot for this. I would hate to go through life stealing, and eventually thinking I could just take things instead of working for them. THANK YOU DAD FOR CARING ENOUGH TO TEACH ME.

   I was a thief… but ‘not no more’.


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A Case of Beer

   Children are weird in a lot of ways. They are full of emotions, ‘vim and vigor’. They do things they often regret or get embarrassed about. I was no different.
It happened in Sherman, Texas, and I was about ten years old, I had just come home from school. It was a sunny day, and I went into the house, and called out, “Mom, I’m home.” No sound of mom or anyone. It was unusual for me to come home and find no one there. We were still living in the days when a family could live on one income, and be happy.
   I went into the kitchen as was my custom, to raid the refrigerator, and hopefully find some Twinkies, or a piece of apple pie. No luck… dad got there first. I was disappointed and so I went back in the den and shut the door. Then I found it… a case of beer. You just cannot imagine what went through my mind.
   Now, as dad told me later, when we could laugh about it… Sherman, Texas was in a “dry county”. That means simply, NO ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES ALLOWED. Dad of course was the preacher for the Church of Christ and was pretty well known, since he was writing books and doing personal work and visiting the hospital regularly.
   I was terrified, and thought that dad gone out and bought this case of beer, and had become an alcoholic. Well, I have to confess I went a little crazy. Being the oldest son, a new Christian, and determined to save dad’s reputation, I took this case of beer, all 24 cans, out on the driveway, and a ice pick, ion very plain view of anyone driving by, and started punching holes in each and every one of those cans. Of course since they were warm, and a bit shook up, these cans didn’t ‘go quietly’. They sent beer spewing several feet into the air. One by one they went off like ‘old faithful’. I was covered in the stuff, and the drive way smelled and everyone who passed by couldn’t believe what this ten year old boy was doing much less the smell that was in the air. It’s not over… then mom and dad came home!!!
   What does a boy do? Pray!!! Well, in the end, dad had been teaching a man who was destroying his family with drinking and he had convinced him to give up the beer. Dad was going to get rid of it for him. I guess, my motives were the only thing that saved me that day.
   It would have been easy for dad to get angry that day. He could have jumped to a wrong conclusion just as I had already. But he was the adult, he had more wisdom, and patience. Me? Well I was just in the middle of growing up.
I had (have) a long way to go in learning the truths of the Master teacher. Jesus said to his disciples, “Do not judge lest you be judged. For in what way you judge, you shall be judged; and by what standard of measure, it shall be measured to you. And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold there is a log in your own eye?” Matt. 7:1-4


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