Thursday, August 16, 2007

What do we do when we think no one is looking?

We went out to lunch on Sunday after church – nothing unusual about that. But what made this lunch hour different was how we watched a family of four, husband, wife, two elementary school-aged boys, open their car doors into Sean’s car door, do what they thought was great damage, look around to see if anyone saw them, and quickly drive off.

We were seated by the window right beside where we’d parked. Sean and Michael love sitting where they can see the parking lot because they enjoy watching all the cars go by. As my father-in-law says, “It’s either cars or women,” so I don’t mind the car-gazing.

We didn’t notice the big, black Suburban pull into the spot beside Sean’s company car. At that point we were still navigating the menu. But after we’d been served and had nearly finished our meal, I saw a young boy race up to the Suburban, fling the door open and smack the mirror on Sean’s Cadillac SRX. The mirrors on the Cadillac, and many other cars, are designed to flip back, so we knew the car wasn’t hurt. But the other mom obviously didn’t know that, and she began hurrying the boys into the car as she looked around nervously to see if anyone had seen what her son had done. We could tell the husband was encouraging everyone into the truck, too, and he began backing out of the parking lot before the boys had even closed their doors.

We were stunned. My very justice-oriented first- and second-borns were appalled. “How could they do that?! Don’t they know that’s just wrong?!” Rebecca, my sweet third child, could only wonder if they had gone to church that morning. “Maybe they don’t know it’s wrong,” she pondered. As for Sean, he was fairly confident everything was going to be okay with his car, but he was quite interested in getting the bill paid so he could take a look.

I must admit my thinking lined up with Michael’s and Amy’s. How in the world could that mother teach her children it was okay to do damage if you can get away with it?

The playwright Goethe said, “Character develops itself in the stream of life,” so we jumped in and seized the opportunity to talk about doing what’s right even when no one is watching. Because even if no other person sees what we do, we will always know. And, of course, God will see.

There were do dings or dents or other damage to Sean’s car. Even if there had been a scratch it would have been worth it for the conversation we got to have with the kids. And thankfully, our conversation was different than the one I imagine the other family must have had.