Two weeks ago while wandering around the shopping mall, my 12-year-old son and I watched a 14-year-old kid get caught stealing. I think it was a good thing for my son to see. No lecture from Dad about morals, right-and-wrong, and doing the right thing has the impact of witnessing an actual event and its consequences.
We wanted to buy some sunglasses and were standing at the cash register waiting for a lone store employee to ring us up. We saw a kid pluck an Atlanta Braves baseball hat off the shelf, slip it inside his jacket, and casually walk out of the store. The clerk, who was about 20 years old, big and tattooed out, was on to it. The thief, knowing he’d been caught, tried to stealthily return the hat to its original location. The clerk firmly told him, “You can either deal with mall security or deal with the police.” The thief scared into silence. We had to wait while three mall security people and a local cop dealt with the boy.
While I can’t imagine my son stealing something that isn’t his, perhaps I am wrong. Or perhaps he someday will be walking the mall with his friends and one of them will speculate about how easy it would be to swipe something and get away without paying. If that scenario comes to pass, I am confident that my son won’t share with others about how his parents taught him right and wrong and to respect others’ property.
Rather he’ll tell the story about the time he went to buy some sunglasses and watched someone go from being a brash thief to terrified kid after getting busted by an alert store clerk and the police. And that will be the end of that brilliant plan.