How can we do better next time?
Dec 12, 2021
In Honest Reality
You know those defining stories of your childhood? Those singular instances that you remember much more vividly than the rest of your youth? Below is my memory of one of those pivotal stories in my life. It happened when I was about 7 years old, my mom and I were on a little road trip to meet some family friends. What was only maybe two hours of driving felt like it took the age of the universe to a little boy. We were off to a small and beautiful town in the mountains. The town, Paonia, is surrounded by fields of high mountain farmlands and is close to greater ranges of mountains often topped with white-summer snow. Before getting to our family friend’s place, my mom and I visited a mountain trading post. My mom, an artist herself, thoroughly enjoyed seeing what other people create. It wasn’t really my ‘thing’, but Inside, I could feel the vibe of mountains. The scent of wood, and hand-worked leather, accented with Native-American visual poetics called out ‘made in the mountains’. My mom had given me a few dollars that I might spend to better preoccupy myself. I had asked for more, as many kids might have asked, but did not get it. As I walked around the store, picking up this, and that, I looked at the price. There was practically nothing that I could get that was less than $2.50, let alone the sole two dollars that I had. And then I found something perfect! It was less than two dollars, and there were options. There was a bowl of hand-woven hemp necklaces resting in a messy bowl atop one of the shop's counters. Interlaced with just a few beads, the hemp necklaces would be perfect: I remembered that my friend, M*, the daughter of my mom’s friend , really liked bracelets. So, I decided to get her one. But then something struck me: Greed. I also wanted one for myself. So, I picked up one more necklace. They were each only $1.50. But the second one I picked up was beyond my budget and went straight into my pocket. I looked around. No one was around to see me. I had seemed to score! A necklace for my family friend, and a necklace for myself! The greed got worse. I hadn’t left, but I knew, I just knew that if I picked up a few of the other necklaces from the pile they probably wouldn’t be missed, and I could give them out to other friend’s all the way back at home. Being wise to my Mom’s keen eyes, I tucked a handful of necklaces into a pocket so that she wouldn’t see them on me. I walked away with what seemed the coolest treasure I had yet found. After we left the store, I was so excited to give the bracelet to my friend. We met, and I gave it to my friend, M*. I had to pull it out from the wad of necklaces that I had so neatly tucked away. My friend M* was very appreciative. I thought little beyond the happiness of sharing the first booty of my own ‘Robin Hooding’ that was to benefit my friends. Our families spent a few hours of time together, us kids doing our own things, and our parent’s doing their chatting-storms. The time then arose when we had to depart for home. My mom and I walked into the car and I got into the back. The doors shut with their usual ‘slam’ and I was getting excited! I just needed to get past the car-ride home to be able to hide the mountain-hemp bracelets that I had gained by nefarious means. It seemed that I would get away scot-free! Then, my mom spoke. In her stern and commanding voice: “Ian! …” Uh oh. It was obvious, from the way the intoned my name: she had somehow found out. My emotions blurred my memory away, so I don’t remember the details of my Mom’s frustrated-yet-wise words that swayed me under her parental command. I do generally remember what happened next. We returned to the store. In a blur of disjointed memories I remember the that I had to turn myself in. A greater understanding of my transgressions weighed my head downward to sulk in shame. My Mom decided on the first punishment, and it was the hardest: I had to tell the shop-manager that I had stolen from them. My imagination carried me everywhere. I was worried about being put in prison, taken away in cop cars as a juvenile. Everything in the future would be bad. I had messed up big. Certainly my punishment would be just as big. After I told the shop owner what I had done, he looked at me sternly. He didn’t call the cops. Instead, he asked me if I would like a job so that I might work to pay for them! I was shocked. My mom may have been too, but my complete memory is displaced. The answer was certainly “No”. We lived a good deal a way and it would take too long to earn the bracelets appropriately. We gave them back. All of them were returned. Including the one that I had actually paid for. I got nothing that I had wanted with my greed, and a deal of what I didn’t want. Still, I had learned the danger of greed. My actions with greed as my driver was hurtful. Hurtful not just to me, but hurtful to everyone involved. One quick experience shifted my perspective enough to better see the importance of honesty, and how the value it provides is far greater than what may be taken away from everyone by not appreciating honesty. To this day, I also wonder what would have happened if the shop-owner hadn’t forgiven me for my transgression, and involved some form of police in the affair. My future would have been much more traumatized, and I likely wouldn’t have learned the lessons that I had. This was one of the most seminal experiences in my life that involved honesty, or lack of it, at its core. It is stories like these that we have had ourselves, or that we have read or learned from others, that allow us to see how it is possible to better-function when we realize that there is great value in honesty, for it allows us to work together effectively for our better futures.