Welcome to the KingZoo and Funny Farm, where we learn to live, laugh, and love together. Here you'll find snippets of life in our zoo, parenting tips we've learned along the way, reflections on shining God's light in this world, passions in the realm of orphan care, and our journey as parents of a visually impaired child with sensory processing disorder. Have fun!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Stealing from beggars

Thanks to my good friend, Kym, our approach to writing this year has been through the ideas and lessons plans found in Notebook Know-How: Strategies for the Writer's Notebook by Aimee Buckner. As often as possible, I write in my writer's notebook while the kids are writing in theirs. (Sorry, Kym, as much as I'd love to write with them everyday, I just don't have the time!) Some days we all share a selection from our notebooks. So one day, I started reading my selection:

Hello. My name is Cindy and I am a thief. My crime? I stole a fish. Well, actually it was just the head. And to specify, it was of the Swedish variety; red and gummy...

At this point I stopped reading because the kids wanted to know if this was a true story or not. The unanimous vote was that I was making it up. I had to admit that it was all too true.

I must have been about seven years old. On one of those trips to the corner store with the neighbor girl (insert explanation of corner stores here, since my kids were in the dark about that small town icon), I had just a few cents to spend. Always finding it difficult to make a choice in a win-win situation, I stood at the penny candy (insert explanation of penny candy here) display (insert explanation of lack of sneeze shield and why candy was just sitting out for grubby kid hands to choose for themselves) for an inordinate amount of time. I finally settled on the Swedish fish, and not able to wait, I bit the head off of one fish before getting to the counter. But then I doubted my choice. So, not wanting to take home half a fish, that is the one I traded in for a different candy. By the time I got home I must have been feeling mighty guilty because I admitted my offense to my mom. Who promptly forced me to turn around, return to the corner store, apologize and pay for the half-eaten fish. Thus began a very slow and difficult walk to the corner store where the very kind and gracious store owner accepted my apology.

Fast-forward a few years. Now I am the mother. We have no corner store and no penny candy. But we do have children who, like all of us, tend to view life from a selfish lens at times. One day during the Christmas season a babysitter took the children to a church to participate in a walk through Bethlehem. Imagine my horror when it was later explained to me that one of my fine, young, up-standing sons spent his walk through Bethlehem by stealing from the beggars! Right down the hall from baby Jesus!

My first thought was that he had done this thinking it was funny. In light of that, my discipline approach was going to focus on how we need to be an example to others, how he made it difficult for the actors to do their job, etc. But when I asked him why he had stolen from the beggars (I could barely get the words out!), he very truthfully told me it was because he wanted more tokens (okay, it wasn't real money) to do more activities. Ah ha! Selfish motives. This was sounding all-too-familiar.

Finding it a little difficult to deal with selfishness that causes one to steal from a beggar, I asked for a moment to confer with the Good Doctor. At some point (possibly before asking me to marry him), he must have had a conversation with my mother about my criminal past and how she had dealt with it because his verdict was similar: Ask our son to write an apology letter to the church and to also make a donation to their youth mission trip (which was the purpose of the whole Bethlehem thing anyway).

In parenting, I want the punishment to fit the crime. But more than that, I want to prepare my children for adulthood. Every action taken now, whether I like it or not, is preparing my child for life apart from me. Better to learn now, rather than when living independently, that life is not all about me and my wants. Better to start now, learning to take responsibility for one's actions, to apologize when necessary, and to make things right when you can.

I still wonder what the church secretary thought when opening up the church mail to find that letter. Could have been a life lesson for them, too.

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