Monday I got home from work at about 4:30 and ran inside the house to do a few things before leaving again to take Sarah to a drama rehearsal at church. Total time inside the house was about forty-five minutes.
When it was time to head back out the door again, I walked to the minivan parked in the driveway, opened the door and prepared to get in. But something in the van stopped me dead in my tracks. Something in the van caused me to pause and to ponder.
And just what was I pondering?
I was pondering leaves. And twigs. They were scattered all over the seat and floorboards of the driver’s side. And when I glanced over at the passenger side, I saw even more leaves and more twigs.
I saw (and pondered) pineapple chunks. Yes. Pineapple chunks.
They were lined up carefully like yellow mini colonels all across the front passenger seat.
I thought for sure I was hallucinating. I mean, you know how we menopausal women have hot flashes (AKA power surges), occasionally lose track of our common sense, and sometimes misplace our emotional equilibrium? Well, it seems to me that when all those things are going in one’s person, having momentary hallucinogenic moments would not be entirely unheard of.
So I continued to stare in bewilderment at the gathered, mysterious materials while waiting for Sarah to come out of the house and open the door on her side; I was interested to see whether her eyes would behold the same thing that my eyes did.
She took one look inside the van and said, “Mom? There are leaves all over the floor over here. And there are, um, pineapple chunks in the passenger seat. What’s going on?”
I knew not. And I told her that I knew not.
I informed her that I would remain outside to guard the crime scene while she ran back inside to get Steve. I wanted to see if for some unfathomable reason, my husband may have come outside during the short time I had been home and placed little chunks of pineapple in my van.
He had not.
And so the mystery remained.
Sarah and I, with puzzlement furrowing our brows, cleaned out the assorted piles of twigs, leaves, and pineapple, got in the car and drove away, shaking our heads in mutual mother/daughter bemusement.
After dropping Sarah off at church, I went on to the grocery store and was just about back home again when Steve reached me on my cell. He said, “The mystery has been solved.”
And here’s what he went on to tell me:
After I had left the house with Sarah, Steve was sitting on the couch watching the news. He heard a tiny, timid knock on the front door and looked through the frosted glass to see the outlines of two people on the front porch. Two very short people.
Puzzled, he got up to answer the door.
There stood two blond buddies from the neighborhood, each about five years old, accompanied by the dad of one and the mom of the other. The boys were scuffling their toes along the floor of the porch and looking everywhere except at Steve.
The mom said, “Boys, what do you have to say to Mr. Smith?”
And standing there on our porch with the bashful, baleful Pineapple Perpetrators, Steve got the most awkwardly dear apology. They hesitantly told him that they had put some stuff all over our van, they were sorry about, and they would clean it up.
As he listened, Steve couldn’t help but think that the whole scenario was about the cutest thing he had ever seen; in fact, he had a hard time not bursting out in a delighted grin during the boys’ speech. However, since they were just about in tears during their recitation, he maintained a suitably sober expression until they were done. Then he knelt down to their level, shook each of their hands and said, “I forgive you.”
He went on to tell them a story about when he was a little blond guy about their age and stole some flowers from his neighbor’s yard. His mom escorted him to the front door where he had to offer his own little boy apology. And so the three of them had a meaningful moment of male bonding—courtesy of their collective criminal behavior.
When all was said and done--apologies made, stories told, hands shaken, forgiveness offered--our wee neighbors departed with clean consciences and joyful hearts. A happy ending, to be sure.
When Steve had finished recounting the story to me I smiled too, because the whole incident was just so dear. And as I started making dinner, I continued to think about it. It occurred to me that those two little guys must have felt quite a sense of accomplishment when everything in their little escapade went off without a hitch. They had come up with a plan of placing weird objects in a neighbor's vehicle, they had accomplished their stated agenda, and most importantly, they had made their escape without getting caught.
However, they had forgotten to plan for one thing. They had forgotten to plan for a guilty conscience—a conscience which would compel them to feel an unexpected twinge of remorse, leading them to a full confession.
I also mused about how easy it would have been for their parents to have brushed that confession off and tell their sons, “You didn’t hurt anything on the car and you didn’t do any damage so let’s just not worry about it. Besides I’m tired from work and I really don’t feel like going over to the neighbor’s house and making a big deal out of this.”
I mean after all, scattering leaves, twigs and pineapple in someone’s minivan is not generally regarded as a precursor to a life of crime and debauchery.
And yet those boys had done something they knew wasn’t right. Their consciences had clearly told them it was not right. And thankfully, they had wise parents who honored the message of their consciences and gave them the opportunity to set things straight--with their neighbors and with their own hearts.
In the broken world that we live in, it’s good to be reminded that tender hearted five-year old boys are still knocking on doors, still taking responsibility for their misdeeds, still expressing remorse for wrong actions. It’s also good to be reminded that there are still parents who care enough about their children and the molding of their children’s characters to encourage them to make things right--even when it doesn’t seem like it’s a big deal.
Because it is a big deal. Doing the right thing is always a big deal.
And as long as there are people who believe that, there will always be hope for this world.