Friday, August 2, 2013


Mom would regularly send my brother and I to buy a few items at the corner grocery on Manhattan Ave. The owners knew our parents and if we didn’t have enough, we could always bring the rest later. The grocery owner would write what we owed in a notebook, and we’d come back later to pay off the amount due. In those days, everyone was trusting and knew a vow made was a vow kept, at least in our family.

The Grocery Store

There was one particular day at the grocery store that stands out in my mind beyond any others. If you’re a geek like me, then you can relate to the feeling experienced when you walk in to any store and see brand new school items on display. The aroma of brand new notebooks and shiny folders staring me in the face was just too much for me. Like any other day, we purchased the items on the list, milk, cheese, eggs, and bread. I paid for the items all the while looking back at the back to school display on the corner. My brother and I walked out and headed home, but I just couldn’t get that section of the store out of my mind.

Imaginary Classroom

The truth is, I had a crazy imagination that never took a rest. Can you blame me if at nine years old I imagined being a teacher to a classroom of students? But, I did. I really imagined it all with students, class assignments and yes, even homework.

Imagination time was put aside as my mom gave us money to buy some ice cream. The joy and excitement of buying something so wonderful on a hot day was obvious, but I think it was the reality of knowing I could go back and look again at the school supplies. Well, we took the ice cream and waited to pay. 

The Thief

There was a small wait and well, what can I say, I believe those notebooks and school items just spoke to me. “Take me home!” I just couldn’t leave them there, suffering in the store window with no children to write in them. So, without anyone noticing, I quickly took a notebook, index cards, a drawing pad, some pencils and anything else my small hands could grab in 1, 2,3 and run!

Quick Get Away!

Holding my shirt down to cover what I had stolen, I quickly walked home and ran to my bedroom. I think I even forgot about the ice cream. I immediately took out the supplies and started planning lessons for my “students”. It was then, as I was creating records for my “students” that my mom walked in with my brother. 

Although she already knew the answers, thanks to my brother, she questioned me on where I had gotten all those school supplies. After telling me that I could never do that again, and that it was wrong, because it’s better to wait than to take something that is not yours, I sadly agreed and thought it was all over. In my head I imagined the punishment would be to have to give it all up and she’d throw it away until she would forget about it and it would be mine at a later date. Nope. If you know my mother, you know she leads by example, and what an example she would leave on this day.

Take It All Back

“Get up and go back to the 
grocery store. Take everything back and put it on the counter. Tell the owner what you did and that you will never do it again.” Mom looked at me and I knew she wasn’t joking. “No. No. Mami. I can’t do that! It will be too embarrassing! Please don’t make me go back!” I cried. My heart dancing a thunder storm and my knees wobbly, I begged again and still, she repeated, “If you had the courage to do something wrong, then have the courage to go do something right.” Living right, no lies, always speaking truth were mom's mantra's. Today would not be different. Integrity started early and in the home, even when no one was watching, dare to do the right thing. 

Obedience and Integrity

     Pushing my legs against the cement, and feeling hurricane like winds pushing against me, I crawled to the grocery store and did as my mom told me to. With huge tears in my eyes, I apologized and the old man just smiled, forgiving me. I hated that moment and was so angry back then.  But, I thank my brother and my mom for what I was obligated to do that day against my will. I was only nine but I have never forgotten that day.

  Oh the many priceless lessons that came from that day. It’s better to wait than to own it through wrongful gain.  It’s better to walk blameless than to walk ashamed. If you get away with it once, you’ll continue to think you can do it over and over again. Do not steal, no question about why? And so many others.  Mom taught us to walk blameless and with honor. She taught us respect and to know that there was a God that watched over us. She taught us to live in a way that would not bring shame or fear into our lives. She modeled integrity, not half the time, but always, even if we were alone.

I certainly learned many lessons that day that have been lessons I've passed down to my own children. I look forward to sharing with you again later.  Until then, don’t leave your new school supplies out in the open when I come to visit. (Just kidding!)  



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