Saturday, March 1, 2014

Making Poor Choices

Ten-year-old minds do not always think logically.

In the late 1940s we were still trying to recover from the end of a world war. In spite of everything being said about the coming economic boom, money was still tight for everyone in our small coal-mining town. I figured a son should help his coal-mining father by trying to contribute to the household finances while we needed it the most.

On a Saturday afternoon when I saw the rag picker lumbering along the country road, in front of our home, in his rattletrap pick-up truck, an idea somehow began to take shape. The old codger driving the overloaded heap was honking his horn announcing he was buying rags, old clothes and scrap metal. The going rate was five cents a pound. I decided to take on the challenge! I told the truck driver to sit tight while I ran back to our house to hunt for pickings to sell.

Five cents per pound sounded mighty tempting, but I had to decide what to sell. I thought about old shoes and boots. How about hats, coats, trousers? I figured the heavier the better. Weight equals more money, and a speedy way to get simple cash. But now the purpose for that money crossed my mind again. Should I put it into the household kitty jar? Maybe, I concluded reluctantly when I began to think about all the other options I could exercise with my new-found wealth.

I started my search for ragged clothing by rummaging through the chifferobe in my bedroom. There was not much in there to begin with so I considered mom’s old clothing. Way too light. Heavier is better I decided, and I focused on trying to find something among my dad’s clothes.

I shouted silently as I realized my dad’s coal mining work clothes were the perfect match. They were tattered and always looked blacken no matter how many times my mother laundered them. His belts and boots seemed to weigh a ton. I was sure my father would love to see me clean up his old work clothes as he deserved to buy new ones anyway.

I had no problem rounding up ten pounds of dad’s clothes to sell. I carried my pile of plunder to the pick-up truck and the driver waiting patiently. The sale was quick and smooth even though the rag-picker looked suspiciously in my direction when I walked away. I should have realized then that this was not going to end well.

But I was fifty cents richer, and that felt great. The idea of contributing the funds to the kitty jar faded as I fingered the dimes and nickels in my hand. Maybe I’ll buy some comic books? Maybe candy? I decided on candy as that was the last thing my mom would consider buying as it was not deemed food for feeding a family. I still remember relishing every nibble of the several Almond Joy candies I ended up buying. Today, it’s still my favorite candy.

On early Monday morning when dad got up at dawn’s light for work I realized my entrepreneurial escapade was not thought out rationally. I was still in bed, and I could hear my father’s voice exploding like bombs all over the house. I realized then that buying new work clothes for dad was not going to be easy as there were likely no spare funds available.

His voice reverberated throughout the house, “Where are my clothes?” It sounded like a death sentence with no reprieve. My illogical strategy became even more apparent ____ you should buy first and then sell or donate old clothes!

I pulled the chenille bed-cover over my head as if not seeing me would make me disappear. I knew I was in trouble having created a big mess. Ultimately, I had to admit guilt and acknowledge I was ready for punishment.

Dad reminded me, “The candy may have been good but there are always consequences.”

The punishment was metered out swiftly. Early to bed and no radio until he said it was OK to listen to the Lone Ranger again. Even as a ten-year-old I concluded selling dad’s mining clothes was a dumb idea. Like sinful behaviors, making lousy choices leads to pain.

The good news is that my father forgave me, and later, he had a good laugh over the incident. His forgiveness felt like the balm of Gilead, soothing my grief. I got the radio and the Lone Ranger back. My bed time hour returned to old habits. And in some miraculous way my mom found the extra funds to buy dad some new, but used, work clothes.

Now looking back, I thank God for a father’s love that forgives and forgets and makes paths smooth again. My father was not perfect, but none of us can claim perfection.

That childhood event still lingers within my adult spirit as a powerful reminder. Back then I cried myself to sleep wondering what was happening to the Lone Ranger and his horse Silver. Today I can laugh in hindsight and be thankful for the lessons learned.

As we go through life trying to do our best we will always face hurdles of our own doing. We will make some poor choices that may affect our spiritual walk. And there are always consequences.

Beyond the obvious ___ to think before you act ___ we must seek God’s strength. He is the perfect Father, his forgiveness is everlasting, and he promises to forget our shortfalls when we seek his mercies ____ which are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Robert Parlante

March 2014

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