The smells and sights still linger in my mind as I think back to the little country store where I loved to go when I was a child. I can still remember the feel of the cool concrete floor under my bare feet as I pitter-pattered up and down the short isles behind my mom. It was there in the little country store that my life was changed forever.
I had no idea this would turn out to be a day of remembrance for me when I entered the little country store, trailing after my mom. The tingling bell always greeted visitors as they came and went, and the smell of hamburgers sizzling on the grill was a reminder that lunch was nearing. And like always, my mom grabbed a grocery cart and off she went, tossing things right and left into the squeaky contraption.
Of course, I had my own agenda. I spied my favorite bubble gum as I passed by the candy shelf. There it was, Green Apple, a penny a piece. My mouth watered at the thought of the tangy experience. I didn’t have a penny, but I did have a plan.
My mom was busy talking to the man at the meat market, and the lady at the counter was busy talking on the phone. Just at the right time, I very carefully positioned myself in front of the green apple bubble gum and while no one was looking I took a piece and hid it in my pocket. My heart was pounding as I slowly moved away and caught up with mom. WHEW! I did it. I could hardly wait to get out of the store.
I didn’t have to wait long. I stood there at the counter looking innocent as my mom paid the wrinkle-faced lady for the groceries. Finally, out to the car to safety, I hopped in and slammed the door. I dug the green ball of gum out of my pocket; the paper fell to the floor and I popped it into my mouth before my mom finished putting the grocery sacks in the back seat.
Oh, the taste of the tangy green apple gum was sending my jaws into spasms. I was chomping and savoring every drop of juice that squished out, when I heard my mom say, “Where did you get that?”
My heart sunk, and my face felt hot. With the wad of gum clinched between my teeth, I confessed I had taken it from the store. “Did you pay for it?” She knew by the look on my face that I hadn’t. She frowned and put out her hand for me to spit it out.
“Well, little lady, you are going right back in there and tell Mrs. Janelle that you stole a piece of gum and then you are going to pay for it.”
Puddles of tears filled my eyes as I asked my mom to come with me. The last thing I wanted to do was go back in and tell the lady at the counter what I had done. I would have rather suffered a spanking. “NO”, she said. “You have to go by yourself,” as she handed me a penny.
I did as she said, and went in and confessed my sin. It burnt like fire inside my chest as I looked into Mrs. Janelle’s wrinkled face and told her that I stole a piece of gum. I handed her a penny; she smiled and said it was okay.
As I ran out of the store that fateful day, it was clear that the tangy taste I had so desired was not worth the scorching consequences I had just endured.
Many years have passed since that day. Many opportunities to take things that didn’t belong to me have also passed; each time, I walked away knowing with certainty it was the right thing to do.
I will forever be thankful for that painful experience. A valuable lesson was burned into my heart that day; it changed my life forever, and all for the price of a penny.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 NIV
copyright 2006 S.Hunt All Rights Reserved