Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Saved from a Life of Crime

The holiday checkout line moved slowly and my three-year-old daughter was antsy. She had trouble keeping her hands off the toy displays strategically placed on the lower shelves. I glanced down just in time to see my youngster jerk her hand back from an unsealed doll package.

"Did you rip that package open?"

My daughter's wide eyes told everything. She nodded her head.

I explained that destroying the package was the same as stealing. The store could no longer sell the toy therefore they could not make money. My daughter's lower lip stuck out as she hung her head.

"Do you know what you have to do? You need to tell the clerk and apologize. Then you will have to pay for the doll."

When we reached the cashier I told him that my daughter had something that she needed to tell him. My precocious three-year-old was quite verbal and made the apology clearly. The checker waved it off and said it was fine.

"No," I insisted. "She needs to pay for the doll."

The shoppers behind me shifted their weight and coughed. They just wanted to get out of the store. The cashier looked uncomfortable but finally took the money from my daughter.

"You know, kids do that stuff all of the time." The young man behind the cash register obviously felt I had just committed child abuse.

I didn't see it that way. I felt it was time to teach an important lesson. My daughter knew she had done something wrong and she needed to make restitution . She got the lesson and the local toy charity received the doll for a needy child in the area.
My mom tells a similar store about me at the grocery store. I was probably three when I asked for some candy and my mother said, "No!" A few aisles later and my mom looked down to see a tell-tale candy dribble down my chin and a pinafore pocket full of wrappers.

I was a very shy child so telling the checker that I was sorry was an experience that is permanently emblazoned on my conscience. This cashier understood what my mother was trying to teach me and fixed a firm eye on me until I stammered out my confession. She took my money and told me to never steal again.

I don't remember the incident but I've never stolen another item again-- not even a paper clip from my workplace.

It is interesting-or sad-to see the responses by the two different checkers in two different generations. It could be a sign of the times however accountability for wrong doing is a timeless lesson that never goes out of style.

Thanks, Mom, for taking the time to teach me a lesson that would have been easier to ignore and a whole lot less embarrassing. Who knows, you may have saved me from a life of crime!

1 comment:

  1. A similar incident happened to John when he was a child. In his case it was piece of bubble gum and his mother made him pay and apoligize. He's never forgot that lesson.


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