This is a sweet story my Aunt Walda, who goes by the nickname Sam, shared with me. It's from her childhood and offers some valuable lessons for us:
"When I was in third grade, I was taught by the most dear and gentle nun. It was obvious that Sister Saint Hubert should have retired years before, but she was still patient and kind when dealing with her class of seven- and eight-year-olds.
Little Walda as a school girl
"One day, giving in to temptation, I took a quarter from Shirley's desk and dropped it into my pocket. In the school year 1947/48, a quarter had a bit more value than it does now. Especially to a third grader. Sister made a plea to the class stating that Shirley needed her quarter for the streetcar fare home.
"My conscience being pricked, I stood up. Sister didn't let me say anything, but took me by the arm into the coat room. There were no words exchanged. I handed her the quarter and began to cry. She took me in her arms and held me for a few minutes.
"Then she exited the coat room and shouted back to me so that the class could hear, 'Walda, please straighten up the coats for me.'
"She then told the class, "Walda said Shirley can have her quarter.'
"I still fill up with tears when I remember that incident, and I'm wiping tears from my eyes as I type this. Never underestimate your little acts of love, kindness, understanding, and forgiveness can have upon a young heart. I'm sure Sister Saint Hubert is enjoying her reward in heaven today."
I don't know about you, but my aunt's story makes teary-eyed every time I read it. Such an important lesson learned about stealing and also how a kind person can steal our hearts and leave an everlasting impression.
Did you ever steal when you were a child? If so, did you get caught and get in trouble? Parents, have you had to deal with this with your own children? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
(A version of this story originally appeared in the Highland Community News in December 1999.)