Lesson in an Eggshell


As I turned into my driveway, the car lights discovered an all too-familiar sight: another raw egg was oozing down the bricks by the garage door. “That did it!” I thought as I climbed out of my car. Why I should have been picked for these nearly nightly barrages of eggs, rocks, or Christmas tree bulbs, I didn’t know, but it couldn’t continue any longer. My home teachers had tried to help; the city police had sent as much surveillance as they could—but the vandalism continued. I was becoming terribly embarrassed by the looks of the front of my home. Had my house been chosen because I am a widow and had no man to chase the pranksters, or did my white door just offer the best target on the street? Whatever the reason, my frustration had hit a new high.

I didn’t want to pass unfair judgment, but I had strong suspicions about who was responsible. However, almost before the last egg was fully dry, the little suspects stopped by my house. I invited them in and explained that I had been having a serious problem and needed to know if they could help me find out who was responsible for my unsightly garage door. All too quickly they denied any part in it, but implicated the young sons of one of my favorite families.

It seemed most unlikely they were telling the truth, but in desperation I apologetically called my friend—the mother of the two boys named—and shared my dilemma. She was stunned that her boys might be implicated in the vandalism, but agreed to talk to them. And so began one of those very special, unforgettable experiences.

Well over an hour later she returned my call. On the verge of tears, she reported that her sons had indeed been part of the scheme. For the past hour she and her husband had talked with them, bit by bit reconstructing the entire story. They asked if it was all right if they come over—the four of them—to see what could be done.

When the doorbell rang I opened the door to two little crestfallen boys and two embarrassed and concerned parents. I offered my hand to the two boys, whose eyes were focused intently on the threshold. As we took our seats in the living room, I searched for words to make the boys feel at ease. I could remember how it felt to be caught in a naughty act, and my heart ached for them as their father helped them relate the full story.

As I listened to this wise and loving father gently and kindly prod the boys to lay out the details of the little drama, I thought how fortunate these boys were—their parents were turning a mistake into a valuable learning experience.

They confirmed my first suspicions; my earlier visitors had instigated the little game and had invited these young neighbors to participate. But the uncomfortable eleven-year-olds in front of me were lucky enough to have been found out and to have parents who would help them undo the damage they had caused.

Without scolding or venting his own embarrassment, their father patiently and thoroughly explained how Satan works through schemes of this sort. He described how the acid in eggs will eat the paint right off the door. He helped them to understand the feelings of those who love them, and of those who pay for the pranks of vandals. His were words not only of discipline, but of love and understanding, inviting tears of remorse, forgiveness, and love from all of us. I watched parents and sons draw closer together, more fully understanding each other’s feelings. And I saw the love of Christ manifesting itself in one person’s concern for another.

In my own efforts to make the boys feel more comfortable, I reassured them that I would never think less of them for what they had done; on the other hand, I would respect them more for having told the truth. I explained to them how necessary repentance is and how one can be forgiven only after he has made a mistake right. “For this very reason,” I told them, “I have left the eggs and rocks and bulbs right where they were thrown so that the ones who put them there could enjoy the good feeling that comes from righting a wrong.”

I thought it a little unfair that they should have to undo all the mischief of their friends, who were surely as much to blame as they, but they seemed little concerned about that, asking if they could come to my home the next day, and in daylight hours undo what had seemed like fun under the cover of darkness. On my doorstep we shook hands again, and this time their grip was stronger and their eyes looked directly into mine.

The next day after school two smiling faces greeted me, ready to tackle the globs of dried egg on my door. For two cold hours they cheerfully scrubbed, picking up shells, rocks, and glass. They politely refused my offers of warm refreshment; obviously they were warmed by their good feelings. When they rang the doorbell to return the scrubbing equipment, the door had never looked so good to me. Oh yes, there were spots without paint, but they only reminded me of the tremendous lessons those boys had learned, and of the enthusiasm they had applied to make amends.

That could have been the perfect ending to the story, but there was more.

I was surprised the next evening to see my young friends on my porch again. One of them carried a freshly baked chocolate cake. The icing had suffered a little, for which he apologized, but it was easy to see that baking it had given him a good measure of happiness. My voice broke as I expressed my thanks and delight. Then the other boy said, “We’ve found a better way to share eggs with you.” With that, each extended his hand. As I looked down, I discovered that these precious boys had each taken the time and effort to blow and decorate an egg for me. I wanted to put my arms around them and cry for the love I felt for them. But not wanting to detract from the new dignity they might feel through their growth of the past three days, I simply extended my own hand to my two newest lifelong friends.

[photo] Photography by Eric W. White

Alberta Lyman O’Brien, a widow and mother of eight children, serves as Provo Utah North Stake Sunday School music leader and as a ward choir director.