Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Our Choices Matter

Day before yesterday, I went into a drug store close to my house in the middle of the day. The store was almost completely empty--just a guy behind the counter and the pharmacist in the back. A young boy, maybe 10 or 11, came in wearing a bike helmet. He walked up and down the aisles. I thought, "Oh, I remember when I used to ride my bike up to the store and get candy...it made me feel big." Then I began to walk past an aisle and I saw him pick up a back of candy and stuff it into his coat. I stopped for a moment and took another step. He seemed to sense me behind him and walked quickly around the corner of the aisle. I thoughtfully, prayerfully wondered what to do. I heard the paper of the candy bag crinkle and thought maybe he'd put it back. I continued to stay open in my spirit for a leading about what to do, but paid for my purchase and left the store.

As I got in my car I saw the boy walk out the door, stiff-legged as though he didn't want the candy to fall out of his coat. I pulled my car over to the curb, rolled down my window, and motioned for him to come closer. There were only the two of us in the parking lot. I looked directly in his eyes and said kindly, "You know there's another way to get what you want, don't you?"

"What?" he asked, blinking hard.

"You know that there's a better way to get what you want, right?" I repeated.

"Yes," he said.

I put my hand on my heart. "You'll feel better about yourself," I said. "Don't steal things."

He nodded and said, "Okay." I nodded and drove off.

I felt that something very sacred had happened there, although I wasn't sure what. I think in some way the boy had been touched by God saying, "I see you. What you do matters." Perhaps my witnessing his choice--and my suggestion of a better way--will help him think more carefully about his future choices. He had the voice of an angel and the sweetest face. I wondered what family circumstances had left him so bored or so unnoticed that he was resorting to stealing for fun. But I took comfort in the fact that the same God who brought us together at that point in time is with him--and me, and you--right now. We are brought together when we need it as witnesses and helpmates to each other. Sometimes our witness says, "I understand you; I love you; you're not alone." Other times it says, "I see what you're doing to yourself, and I want to tell you there's a better way." Either way, God reaches through us, using our words, our presence, and our witness, to be the hands and voice of Christ to those who forget that their choices really do matter.

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