My friend Tommy and I stole a salt shaker, an ashtray and an “open” sign from an ice cream shop in our hometown when we were kids. We thought it was a funny prank, at least until one of the owners saw us do it and called our parents. What happened next was a serious learning moment for both of us that changed our views on theft of any sort. 

After the you-know-what chewing we received from our parents, we were forced to face the people we stole from and return the items. Mr. and Mrs. Colwell, who owned and managed the ice cream shop, lit into us — and deservingly so. These are the folks who served us ice cream after our Little League games, greeted us with smiles every time they saw us, and allowed us to hang out in their shop. They could have called the police, but they didn’t. That would have been too easy. Instead, they sat us down and explained how hard they worked to have a business, and how every penny mattered. They described how that salt shaker and that ash tray and that open sign may not have seemed like a big deal to us, but why they were to them. And, most importantly, they wanted us to know that stealing, of any kind, was not a habit that a young person should form. They were right on all accounts, and Tommy and I immediately realized this and thanked them. 

When I got home, my father gave me a similar speech, but he also let me know how disappointed he was in me — and in himself. Yes, himself. He told me he clearly did not do a good job in raising me if I felt that stealing was OK. That single comment made this kid realize how my actions have consequences on other people. I am not sure how much Dad thought through what he said, but his comments had more impact on me than any yelling or screaming or grounding ever would have. 

I often wonder how those with a history of crime would have fared if Mr. and Mrs. Colwell or their parents would have had that same conversation with them. I also wonder if I, as a parent, handled matters in the same way with my kids. 

That’s a little something for us all to think about the next time we are wronged by a young person — or any person. Our comments — and how we handle the situations related to them — could halt future wrongdoings and have a long-term positive effect on them.

Have a fantastic Friday, and thank you for reading.

Shane Goodman
Editor and Publisher
Times Vedette digital newsletter