Life Lessons from a Junior Vandal

Growing up I had a neighbor named Mr. Walker passionate about restoring vintage cars to mint condition.

Two or three sat outside his garage, and I’ll never forget the near mint light-blue pickup truck he was always tinkering with.

I’m not sure what possessed me as a six year old little boy to go to the end of his gravel driveway and throw a rock at that truck, but that’s what I did.

My plan was solid – I’d throw the rock and run away as soon as it left my hand. No one would know what I’d done, and I’d get to secretly revel in my mischief (though I’m sure I would have spilled the beans to the other neighborhood kids at some point).

I picked up a rock, let it fly, and began my sprint away from the scene all in one motion. My plan was a success … or so I  thought …

While running I saw something out of the corner of my eye. Who should come out of the garage at the exact moment the rock was in mid-air than Mr. Walker (have you ever wished you could hit rewind on life?)!

*bing* – the rock ricocheted off Mr. Walker’s prized possession, and he looked up only to see me running away.

“WES!” he shouted – and this horrible sinking feeling overcame me. I ran as fast as I could towards the bushes at my other neighbor’s house and hid behind their cover just as frightened as I’d ever been.

With my heart racing and my breathing heavy, I watched from my hiding place as Mr. Walker gruffly made the trek from his yard to mine, then up to my front door where he knocked. My mother answered, and he very angrily told her what had just happened. I heard mom apologizing to him before he walked back to his yard to survey the damage.

My mother called me home (oh no!) – I sheepishly came out of my hiding place after I made sure Mr. Walker wasn’t looking. After sneaking in the house, mom told me to go sit in my room and wait on my father to come home. Aaack! That sinking feeling hit me again – would the police ever find my body?!?

I stewed in my room for what seemed like an eternity waiting on dad. I could only imagine the horrible punishment that awaited me. “Would he use the paddle or the belt?” I wondered (as an adult I’m faced with an array of choices – as a child my choices were often limited … peanut butter sandwich or grilled cheese, G.I. Joe or Transformers, paddle or belt – you know, limited).

Dad finally made it home where mom relayed to him what’d happened. He came back to my room, and to my surprise he didn’t have a paddle or a belt in his hand.

“What’s going on here?” I thought, “I’m not liking this at all!”

That’s when dad said something that was even worse than getting a whipping: “Come on, Wes. We’re going over to Mr. Walker’s house. You’re going to apologize to him for what you’ve done.”

“Nooooo!” spilled out of my mouth before I could think of anything else to say, then the tears started. I was deathly afraid of facing this man I’d made so upset just an hour earlier. I’d already made up my mind that Mr. Walker would never see me again. Never again would I play on that side of the neighborhood – EVER. If Mr. Walker happened to be outside in my general area, from then on I would be gone in a flash … forever!

 “Not that!” I pled through my tears to no avail.

Dad waited until I got my composure – probably a good five to ten minutes – then led me over to Mr. Walker’s ominous front porch where he instructed me to knock on the door.

I didn’t want to knock on the door! I wanted to die! And I did a little on the inside when my knuckles met the wood. What a HORRIBLE feeling that was!

The door swung open, and to my surprise a very pleasant Mr. Walker invited us inside. We sat in his living room and I nervously told him how sorry I was that I’d thrown a rock at his truck. I told him it was a stupid thing to do, and that I’d never do something like that to him again. It was a sincere apology – I really was sorry (not just sorry I’d gotten caught).

Mr. Walker didn’t chew me out, and he didn’t belittle me. He didn’t even threaten to sue me, as I regularly did to the other kids in the neighborhood who’d offended me.

He told me he accepted my apology, and that he was sorry for getting so upset about it in the first place. After all, it was just a truck.

Mr. Walker went on to tell me a story about a similar act of mischief he’d committed upon a neighbor when he was my age, and how he’d gotten caught and had to go apologize as well. He said it was a really scary thing to do, but he was glad he’d done it. He said he felt a lot better afterward, and that he and the man he’d offended had become friends. He thought I would probably feel glad that I’d apologized to him, and that he and I could maybe be friends too.

I told him that I was glad I’d apologized, and that we could be friends.

I’ll never forget the feeling I had as I left Mr. Walker’s house that evening – like this weight had been lifted off my shoulders. No longer was I concerned about avoiding Mr. Walker the next time I saw him – just the opposite. I felt like Mr. Walker and I were pretty good friends.

I learned a very valuable lesson that day – always, always, always make an attempt to make things right with those you’ve offended however so. When you do this, good things happen even if the person you’re apologizing to doesn’t respond as you’d like or as they should.

Mr. Walker responded well, but I can tell you other stories about other people who didn’t respond as graciously as he.

Regardless, remember this truth: reconciliation is God’s will, and God isn’t just interested in reconciling mankind to Himself. He’s also concerned with reconciling mankind to mankind – that’s me to you, and you to me.

Matthew 5:23-24
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,
24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

Sometimes we have to take the first step in carrying out this aspect of God’s desire for us, and that can be a very scary and nerve-racking thing, but it’s always worth it because it’s what God wants us to do.

Have a blessed day. 🙂

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2 thoughts on “Life Lessons from a Junior Vandal

  1. Greg says:

    Great post and very good point, Wes. Reminds me of when one of my older friends taught me to throw potatoes at passersby, from my 4th-story balcony….

  2. WesWoodell says:

    lol … you need to tell the rest of that story.

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