The Parable of the Neighbor Kid

I had a talk to the neighbor boy tonight. I wasn't looking forward to it, but it needed to happen. I was hoping he'd come talk to me, but it didn't seem like that was going to happen. So when I was in the yard taking dish towels off the clothesline and saw him walking toward the back door of his place, I knew I had to stop him so we could talk.

He's probably around 13 or so (though I'm a terrible judge of age). His younger brother and he were over yesterday playing with our kids after school. Before they left I had a sneaking suspicion that someone had stolen some money yesterday.

The boys live in the duplex next door. If you've been around our house at all, I only need to mention the duplex and you've probably already not surprised. The duplex along with one other rental across the street, tend to be the trouble houses on our block. They're the ones we've seen the police at; they're the ones we've called the police about. We try our best to love them, but we also aren't going to put up with some of the stuff that goes on.

The boys are fairly nice boys. I don't think their home life is overly stable, but they have been friendly.

But yesterday when I went upstairs to have everyone clean up before supper, I noticed some coin jars that were out on my dresser that I was fairly certain weren't out earlier. I also only saw two and believed we had three. I had been gone over the weekend, however and wasn't positive if Beth had done anything with them. So I brought it up (reminding everyone--including my boys--that our bedroom was off limits), and I said I'd check with Beth if my suspicions were true or not.

When Beth got home she confirmed that there were three coin bowls and one contained a decent amount of quarters (left over remnants from our rental days of having to do coin-operated laundry). Then I discovered a sack of coins (pennies and nickels mainly in the drawer in our bathroom that contains our toothbrushes. Then I saw the third bowl in our laundry basket in the bathroom. About the same spot where the oldest kid was when I came upstairs.

I had told them before all this was confirmed that I hoped they would be honest and truthful. That I would know if they were lying or not. That we wanted to be able to have them over to play but that we needed to trust them. I had hoped, after I discovered that they had lied and that they had stolen things, that his conscience would weigh him down and he'd come and confess.

Now, it wasn't much money--maybe $5 or so. But I no longer could trust him. He lied. He stole. I couldn't be sure that nothing else had been stolen before (we'd had packages taken off our porch just before Christmas, Anders has been missing his Lego watch, the kids always asks about our computers and digital camera). We felt violated.

So when I saw him coming tonight, I stopped him to talk. I tried to give him an opportunity to confess first. That didn't happen, so I told him what I knew to be true. He still didn't really come out and confess, but he also couldn't hide too much anymore. I'm not sure if he fully acknowledges that he did something wrong. I think he may feel guilty mainly because I confronted him. He gave me some of the quarters he had in his pocket and said he'd bring more over tomorrow.

I hope he does. It's not about the money. I feel for the kid. Growing up where we live, being a black teen, the statistics show that he has a good chance of having a run-in with the law as he gets older. I don't want that to happen. I want a better life for him than what he's got. So I hope that returning things would give an opportunity for him to change.

And even more than that, I want to be able to talk with him about forgiveness. I haven't been perfect, either. I've lied before. I've stolen (I don't think either of these sins is foreign to most of us--look around and see if you've taken anything home from the office for instance). But I've also received forgiveness--from others and from God.

The hard part will be trusting him again. I don't feel I can let him in the house for a while. I'm not sure what he'll need to do to regain our trust.

But I hope we can talk. I hope he'll take some responsibility. I hope...I hope.

It's also a good reminder that with repentance comes change. Simply saying, "I'm sorry," isn't true repentance. Repentance is a 180degree turn. It's turning from our wrong actions toward right ones. I don't always do that well, I confess. So I need the reminder for myself as well that with the grace of forgiveness comes the responsibility of repentance...of change. May it be so.


Mary said...

What a tough situation. I very much admire the way you handled it. Prayers for that poor kid.

Kim said...

Wisdom here, Dave. I'm working on some forgiveness in my own life right now. We're all broken. The world is broken. And navigating these broken streets is ALWAYS be difficult. I'm going to pray for the neighbor boy, that He will see Christ's love in your interactions with him.