Don’t Take Things That Don’t Belong to You

Life Lesson Number 11: Don’t Take Things That Don’t Belong to You

This life lesson should be as obvious as the eighth commandment, “Thou shalt not steal. In today’s world, that isn’t always the case. People like to steal. Come on, admit it; there is a certain thrill with getting away with taking something that doesn’t belong to you. But what happens if you get caught? What about the person you stole the item from? Maybe they needed it for an important reason. It might make a big difference in their life if you don’t take things that don’t belong to you.

Some lessons are hard to learn. The learning curve became easier in the 60s and 70s because the punishment often was more devastating than the crime. There is so much temptation today that the theft of small items isn’t a big deal. People move more often, so a sense of being part of a small community isn’t as apparent to children these days.

Don’t Take Things That Don’t Belong to You

It was the summer of 1966. I’d left the third grade and had three months ahead of me to hang out with my friend. At least, that was what I thought until that fateful afternoon I went to a local grocery store with a girl visiting her grandparents who lived next door. It was my first summer without a babysitter, and I loved the freedom to explore without prying eyes. For the sake of this post, I will call my friend Kim. Now that I look back on my childhood, most of the trouble I ever got into can be traced to one of her visits.

We decided to walk down to a neighborhood grocery store. This store differed from the large national chains. Our small city in Indiana didn’t have any of those places that had everything a person could ask for yet. These stores sold eggs, milk, meat, and canned goods. There was one marketing trick that hadn’t changed since the 1960s. Placing candy near the checkout is a surefire way to increase revenue. Adults can’t resist buying that one candy bar. Moms tired from dragging their kids through the store can grab a quick bribe to encourage good behavior on the way home. The candy aisle became my source of temptation.

Don’t Take Things That Don’t Belong to You

The second I thought no one looked in my direction, I stuffed my pockets with enough penny candy to keep myself and my friend entertained for the rest of the afternoon. (They had some cool penny candy in those days. You could even buy candy cigarettes, but they cost more than a penny.) I waited until we left the store before I showed Kim my haul. We ate every last piece and went home with a sugar high.

I thought I’d gotten away clean until the next time my mom had to make a trip to this small grocery store. The lady at the counter took a paper and pen. She wrote down every single item I shoved into my pocket. My mother was deaf, but she could read. The problem with committing a petty crime in my 1960s neighborhood involved everyone knowing who belonged to who.

Don’t Take Things That Don’t Belong to You

I’m unsure about the child labor laws in place when I committed my crime, but I believe my punishment violated a few. The two women sentenced me to dusing every can and shelf in the establishment. I might mention that no one had bothered dusting the store since the 1950s. That left me with ten years of accumulated dust clean in exchange for the pocket of penny candy I stole. It didn’t seem fair then, but I’ve never taken anything that didn’t belong to me again.

By the end of the summer, I wished they’d called the police and had me arrested. Every kid that entered the store knew I was being punished for a crime. I am thankful neither of the women who served as my judge and jury thought of making me wear a sign around my neck that screamed “Candy Thief.” The store owner got a great bargain. The punishment reformed this juvenile thief.

Published by henhouselady

I am the author of Saving the Hen House. I didn't know when I started it would turn into a series. I love to ride motorcycles, the blues, my family, and going on adventures. This old hen rocks.

3 thoughts on “Don’t Take Things That Don’t Belong to You

  1. It’s a natural part of human nature to push to n the edge of this moral envelope to see if it is a worthy one. Whether by punishment, as for you, or by rational observation of the results, as for me, once we become convinced of its unadvisability the thrill is so totally gone that in my case I’ve actually fasted completely for as many as nine days without even thinking of stealing food.

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