“Forgive one another, just as God forgave you." ~ Ephesians 4:32
The small shop sold snacks, drinks, and other convenience items on the same corner for over five decades. But lately, it’d become a magnet for local petty thieves.
Its longtime owner, Margie, sat unremarkably behind the counter reading cheesy romance novels when business dragged. She wasn’t the kind you’d pity with her old bones and feeble limbs, but the kind who could still run an army kitchen given a chance. Always quick with a joke, Margie knew most customers by name and treated all her visitors with equal respect.
Danny and his friend Miguel had it down to a science. They’d search for stores where the shelves were lined up in such a way that it was difficult for the cahier to watch them.
They always went in pairs. Miguel would take his time preparing a Slurpee from the drinks counter while Danny would stuff a backpack full of “saleable” goods that they could sell after school. They even nicknamed their practice "finger-painting," a combination of having quick fingers and being caught red-handed. After pilfering several desired items, they’d leave a store giggling and exchanging rebellious glances of teenage arrogance.
When Marge noticed the unfamiliar kids stealing, she didn’t panic. She simply went over the counter and locked the front door. Obviously, they hadn’t intended to pay for the ill-gotten gains. It became equally apparent that they weren’t going anywhere.
Margie’s piercing eyes settled on them. “Seems to me you have but two choices,” she began. “You can wait for the cops to take you into custody, or you can put all the stuff back on the shelves.”
Their confidence retreated like a rollercoaster falling backwards. Clearly not what they’d expected, the boys quickly did as she requested.
They were nearly finished when the police arrived. Margie unlocked the door and explained that everything had been taken care; no need for their assistance, and went back to her reading.
How quickly most of us would seek punishment for those who commit a crime like larceny. If we look deeper, however, we just might see people that simply need to be shown the right path.
Compassion isn't always easy, but we're all on this earth together, so we can't just help those that keep good behavior. Kids who commit such crimes are often some of those that need help with the most basic spiritual and human principles, such as right and wrong.
Sure, we need to keep order and hold others accountable for misbehaviors. But sometimes less is more … a good, kind example is more effective than harsh punishment. Certainly, Christ was more effective by preaching responsible behavior than responding to irresponsible conduct.
Forgiving Lord, Your mercy flows to me in spite of my faults and failures. If I can be forgiven, so can others. Help me demonstrate that kind of love even to those who disappoint and hurt me. Amen