Tag Archives: Childhood memories

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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The ‘F’ and that sinking feeling

I love reading my mom’s writing, and just got done taking in a story from her childhood.

Check it out:

The “F”

by Geraldine Woodell

She prayed the lumbering school bus would never get to her stop – that it would break down, blow a tire, or mysteriously be unable to find her house. Her insides were curled up into themselves, it seemed, and she struggled to hold the tears behind her eyes that were fighting to escape. Whatever had she been thinking?!

Why, for crying out loud, had she gotten herself into this mess? But worse than that, her mother … confessing to her mother was what she dreaded most of all. Why couldn’t she just lie? Hope surged up for a second, but only for a second. It would be her luck that her teacher would see her mother somewhere and ask about “it” and then she’d be in double trouble.

She usually felt uncomfortable around her mother. Mama was exacting, and always short-tempered (or so it seemed to her) for reasons she could never figure out. Physical affection wasn’t part of her family’s culture, but that absence really didn’t really register with her, probably because many of her friends’ and relatives’ families were much the same way. Spontaneous hugs, kisses, even friendly arms around the shoulders were all foreign behaviors. Anger, however, flowed freely – ire was acceptable while tenderness was not. Not that she pondered these things; she was more concerned with staying out of the way of the anger.

The yellow bovine of a bus traitorously did remember her stop. She slowly slid across the greenish, cracked vinyl seat and stepped down into her lane. Nervously she looked up at the house. It was a rent house, of sorts; her daddy had bartered with the owner to allow her family to live there if they agreed to look after his cows. An old barn of a building, drafty, equipped with a massive wood-burning range her mama fiercely hated, run down and largely abandoned until her family moved in. But she, the child, loved it. A breezeway divided the house in half, providing a wonderful place to play on blustery days. Two huge cedar trees graced the front yard, offering cool, quiet play houses underneath their limbs that drooped to the ground. The windows had no screens much to her mother’s dismay, but the child delighted to sit on a generous ledge with a cool drink and read for hours.

She thought of none of these pleasurable things as she entered the house. Wanting mightily to just get it over with and take whatever was coming, she rushed into the kitchen. Now the tears burst out of their gates, rolling down her cheeks. Alarmed, her mother said sharply, “What’s wrong?!!”

“I cheated at school and got an ‘F’ on my paper!!!” she cried out with a curious blend of relief, fear, and shame. “I don’t know why I did it – but I’m sorry!” Her nose was running now and she swiped at it ineffectively. “Betty wanted to know an answer, and – I don’t know why – but I gave it to her, and the teacher caught me, and she called me up to her desk, and she asked me what I did, and I told her, and she said,’Go get your paper,’ and I did, and she marked a big red ‘F’ on it and now she doesn’t like me anymore – and I’m so sorry!!” she poured out. And proceeded to cry harder.

Silence. Fearing the worst, and feeling so low she really didn’t care now what her mother did, the girl quieted and waited on her fate, looking at the floor.

“You know, an ‘F’ can stand for more than Failure.” She couldn’t believe the calmness in her mama’s voice. She chanced a peek to see if the face matched the voice. It did. Her mother wiped her hands on a dishrag and looked at her daughter, eyes not black as they usually were, but a soft brown.

“An ‘F’ can also stand for ‘Forgiveness’ – did you know that?” The girl’s head bobbed up and down automatically – she wasn’t sure where this was going.

“I think maybe we’ll just change the meaning of this big red ‘F’ on this paper to stand for ‘Forgiveness.’ I believe you realize what a bad mistake you made today, and you’re really sorry for it. So we won’t talk about it anymore.” Then briskly, “Now go change out of your school clothes – I’ve got to finish supper.”

Stunned, the girl turned as if in a dream and moved toward her bedroom. Suddenly her spirit was as light as a feather, and her feet could not merely walk anymore – she broke into a joyous run. She wondered if she dared to whoop inside the house, and chanced a puny one.

Mom has a way with words, doesn’t she?

Stories about people experiencing relief from that sinking feeling resonate with me.

What about you?

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