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A hope note

Rarely, maybe three or four times a year, someone comes to our front door and rings the bell. It’s usually a child raising funds for the school band or Scouts selling candy, fruit or magazines.
This time, I opened the door to a Persian-looking man and a sheepish-looking little boy who was holding a plastic bag with something in it. The man extended his hand and politely introduced himself. I awaited the sales pitch.
He announced, ‘My son has something to say to you.’ The boy, about 7 years old, apologized for watching another boy steal tomatoes from my garden. His father commented, ‘I’ve taught him that when you see someone else do wrong and you do nothing about it, you are as guilty as he.’ Then the boy handed me two little tomatoes, the stolen property he said he had received from the other boy.
I shook the boy’s hand, took the bag of two tomatoes and told him I accepted his apology. I moralized about it being a very important day in his life, a precious learning experience that he will remember when he’s as old as I.
The next morning the doorbell rang again. It was the little thief himself and his mother. When she said that he was there to apologize, he gave a knee-jerk protest: ‘But I wasn’t the only one!’ The boy was holding a bowl of crushed ripe and green tomatoes that he had stomped or beaten into pulp. We went through the ‘I apologize,’ ‘I accept your apology’ routine.
I closed the door and smiled. Something timeless had transpired. Boys were caught being mischievous little boys, testing the boundaries. Adults were caught being responsible parents, teaching right from wrong. It’s the stuff of which civility and morality are made.

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