My friend Joanne and I, both 10, liked doing things together. One day, we walked downtown to the drugstore to pick up an order for Joanne’s mom.
When we arrived, Mr. Margolis, the druggist, greeted us just like we were grown-ups and we chatted for a minute or two. Then he disappeared into the back room to get the item we had come for while we waited by the candy counter.
Suddenly, Joanne grabbed a roll of Life Savers and slipped them in her pocket. I was surprised, but I didn’t say anything.
I have never forgotten the tangy flavor of guilt.
I knew it was wrong to steal. I’m sure Joanne knew it, too. But we never talked about it. Not then. Not ever. As for me, I vowed that if I were ever in such a situation again, I would not stand by, silently complicit.
As I grew older, I became interested in the Bible - especially the stories about Jesus. One involves a man who was thought to be a crook.
Jesus passed through the town of Jericho and saw Zacchaeus perched on a branch up in a tree. He was a short guy and had to climb up high in order to see over the crowd. Jesus looked up and called to him: “Hurry and come down; I must stay at your house today.” (See Luke 19)
Thrilled, Zacchaeus scampered down from his tree. Those who overheard the exchange were not so pleased. They grumbled, “He’s gone to be a guest of one who is a sinner”.
Zacchaeus was a tax collector - not a well-reputed job. Tax collectors were not generally trusted. Overhearing the criticism, he quickly defended himself, explaining that he always gave to the poor, and if he cheated anyone, he gave back “four times as much”.
What had been lost? A perspective of man as honest. But when Christ Jesus came to town with his spiritual sense of God's man, he exposed Zacchaeus' goodness and restored his reputation in the community.
Flash forward some years after the lifesaver incident. My husband and I stood at the checkout in a crowded store when a young couple in front of us turned to say hello. Smiling broadly, the woman held up her hand to flash her diamond ring. She was newly engaged and we congratulated her.
As we moved along the line, we checked out some of the sale items on a table beside us. This woman picked through some of the lipsticks lying there. Then, selecting one, she quickly and quietly put it in her pocket.
I could almost taste a cherry Life Saver.
Now what? Would I stay on the sidelines and watch the scene unfold all over again? This time I thought, What would Jesus do? He would bring out the hidden honesty and goodness in those around him. I thought of Zacchaeus and the accusations crowding in. Could I cut through the accusations stirring in my own thought and find a way to help this woman express her natural honesty?
The line was crowded and I didn’t want to embarrass her or spoil her evident happiness. So I prayed as we slowly advanced through the checkout.
When we reached the sales counter, she didn’t put the lipstick on the counter with her other items. I felt genuine compassion for her. She may not have known it yet, but I knew she wasn't a crook. And couldn’t let her misrepresent herself in this way. So I leaned over her shoulder and gently whispered, “Did you forget the lipstick?”
She turned to me and said, “What lipstick?”
Again, I whispered, “You know, the one you put in your pocket.”
She quickly pulled it out of her pocket and put it on the counter to pay for it.
Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “Dear reader, right thinking, right feeling, and right acting — honesty, purity, unselfishness — in youth tend to success, intellectuality, and happiness in manhood.” (First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p.274)
I like to think that the Life Saver incident in my youth served to teach me the value of honesty – enough so that I see it as a precious spiritual quality to be polished, brought out and used like everyday silverware.
And if my honesty helps someone else express their own along the way, what could be better?
Kay Olson loves writing posts for you from her home in Pennsylvania. She is a Christian Science practitioner and teacher. Have feedback for her? Put it in a comment below or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.