My family and I returned home from vacation a few weeks ago. When we pulled up onto the street and parked in front of the house, I immediately noticed that the railing for my steps in front of my house was gone. The kids in the neighborhood were outside playing and when they saw us pull up, they ran inside their house. It doesn’t take a genius to spot that level of guilt. One of the parents even called there child inside, which to me was out of fear of confrontation, but maybe I’m drawing conclusions. I’m really not that hard to get along with, so I didn’t understand the level of guilt. My railing wasn’t the sturdiest anyway because I’ve backed into it a time or two with my vehicle. I suspected that the kids decided to play on it while we were gone and with the weakness of the railing, it didn’t take much for it to break. I was more aggravated about the fact that no one wanted to own up to the incident than anything else.
My second year of college, my family bought me a car. I went away to college and the first year I had to rely on other people to get me around town or I had to wait for my family to come get me on long weekends. So, the summer before my second year of school, my Mom and Dad bought me a red Dodge Shadow. My parents came down with me the week before school started to help get me settled in and make sure all was well with everything. I drove down with my Mom in the car and my Dad came in his vehicle. The day before they left to go back home, they said their goodbyes to me and headed to their hotel. I was a little nervous about the start of the new year and decided to go to Wal-Mart to kill some time and get some odds and ends. I went into the parking lot and pulled into a spot, when I pulled in, I misjudged the distance and scraped a van with my front bumper. No one was around, my heart was in my throat and I didn’t know what to do. My gut told me to leave, but I had to check and see the damage. I looked and couldn’t tell anything. But, on looking again I saw a decent size mark. I nervously waited in the parking lot for whoever the owner was to come out so I could tell them what happened. It was hot, I was nervous, I was battling whether to just go and pretend it didn’t happen, when finally after about twenty minutes a family started walking to the van. I approached the father and told him what happened. He looked at the damage and he thanked me for letting him know. We exchanged insurance information and I got his phone number. This was before cell phones were in everyone’s possession. I left and headed back to the dorm, dreading the call to my parents. When I got in the dorm, I went to the payphone, looked up the hotel number of where they were staying and called and told them what happened. They weren’t happy, of course, because this was added expense that they weren’t expecting. They contacted the other driver and paid for the damage out of pocket instead of putting it on the insurance. The other driver was kind and complimented that it was honorable that I waited around for them.
The thing is, the guilt would’ve drove me crazy if I drove off and pretended it didn’t happen. I have my parents to thank for that. They raised me to be upfront whenever I broke something, to be honest in all situations.
Back to the railing, a few days after we got home the little girl across the street started talking to me because I was taking the trash to the curb. After a bit of dialog, she pointed at the broken railing. I nodded and said “Yeah, you know what happened, don’t you?” She nodded back and then pointed to the house beside me. I nodded and said, “The railing wasn’t very sturdy. I’m guessing that it looked like a good place to slide down or swing on. Then when someone played on it, it came down. She said, “Yea, and he hurt his hand.” “That happens,” I said back.
A day or two after the little girl told me, the little boy who had done it waved at me with a bandaged up hand. He walked toward me and I said, “Did you do that on my railing?” He nodded and his sister quickly said, “No, you did it on the slip and slide.” He shot her a look and then I said, “I know what happened. I’m glad you aren’t hurt worse.”
The kids didn’t want to hold on to that guilt either. They were afraid of how I would react. They didn’t want to own up to it, but they couldn’t pretend it didn’t happen either. Confession is freeing, whereas keeping that guilt inside will eat you alive or numb you.
“Few things are more infectious than a godly lifestyle. The people you rub shoulders with everyday need that kind of challenge. Not prudish. Not preachy. Just cracker jack clean living. Just honest to goodness, bone – deep, non-hypocritical integrity.” ~ Chuck Swindoll