by Sue Reed
About 1996, my 9-year-old son and his best friend were with me at the Shop Rite supermarket in Middletown Connecticut. As kids like to do when they’re a bit older, they took off to the toy section while I shopped. When we arrived home, I became suspicious when they ran up to my son’s room without first taking off their jackets.
I snuck up the stairs behind them. Sure enough, they had two items that they hadn’t asked for, let alone paid for. I was livid. After chewing them out about stealing and phoning the other guy’s mom, she and I decided on a plan.
The next day, when they were in school and likely thinking my lecture was their worst punishment, I called the market’s manager. I told her what had happened, saying I wanted to bring the boys back to the store so she could give them heck about stealing. She was happy to oblige.
Later that night, my son and his friend were back in the car for another ride, but we ended up at the same store from the night before.
Their faces turned gray.
When we got to the manager’s desk, I was taken aback by the small stature of this woman. She was only a couple inches taller than these boys, who, despite her size were now shaking in their boots AND gray. She quietly but sternly bawled them out with the commanding presence of the best school principal.
When she finished, a “Yes, Ma’am” was expected, but when the boys tried to talk, their throats were closed in fear. Sounding like Minnie Mouse on helium they apologized, returned the items and offered to work off their bad deed. She took the items, declined their work offer and told them they’d NEVER be allowed in her store again if they ever repeated their offense.
Standing behind them, I tried my hardest to not smile, especially when they answered in squeaky voices. Fortunately it was winter and my scarf hid my very satisfied face. As soon as the lecture was over, the boys turned and headed for the exit without being told. The manager gave me a wink and the slightest of smiles that showed she, too, believed those boys would never crook another thing.
If they had gotten away with stealing that time, who knows what they would have tried next? Peer pressure works *both* ways: perhaps someday they’ll talk their friends out of doing something dishonest. With one very intimidating lecture she may have saved two boys from a go-nowhere-fast path in life.
That ShopRite is closed now, so I can’t thank that manager apropriately. I’d love to tell her those boys are now 16 and haven’t (to my knowledge) stolen anything, or even JOKED about thieving since her lecture. Especially as a single parent striving to build my child’s morals, I so appreciate her doing more than her job that day.