It was time to clean Leslie’s room. “You vacuum the floor, Leslie,” Mother said cheerfully, “and I’ll tidy and dust.”
Leslie couldn’t return the smile. As her mother lifted things to dust and straighten, Leslie felt uncomfortable. She tried to reassure herself that it was hidden so well no one could find it. While pushing the vacuum back and forth over the carpet, Leslie watched her mother anxiously. Surely Mom won’t choose today to dust all the books on my shelf! she agonized.
Leslie recalled the day she’d seen the glittering gold bracelets displayed on the jewelry counter of the department store. They’d looked just like the ones her friends were wearing. “Look, Mom,” she had said to her mother, who was hurrying to the shoe department. “These are the bracelets I was telling you about. Suzanne and Tena already have some.”
Leslie’s mother stopped for a moment and glanced at the bracelets. Then she frowned. She was thinking of the dinner she had yet to prepare. If she were delayed too long, her husband would be late for his meeting that night. “I’m sorry, Leslie, but we don’t have money for things like that,” she said. She felt frustrated. There never seemed to be any money left after paying bills to buy extra things for the children.
While her mother hurried on to look at shoes, Leslie lingered at the jewelry counter, admiring the bracelets. She could picture in her mind how pretty one would be on her arm. The clerk was on the other side of the carousel with her back turned, waiting on a customer. Leslie quickly looked around to see if anyone was watching. Then she slipped a bracelet off the rack and into her pocket.
Although her heart was thumping like her dog’s tail against the door when he wanted in, Leslie could hardly wait to see how surprised Susanne and Tena would be tomorrow when she wore the new bracelet to school.
All the girls will envy me, she daydreamed. A smile moved across her face as she hurried to find her mother.
When she got home that day, Leslie looked around her room to find a safe hiding place. Behind the books on her bookshelf seemed like a place no one would disturb. She pulled the bracelet from her pocket. A tiny price tag marked $15.00 dangled from it.
Leslie stared at the bracelet. She finally admitted to herself that she had done wrong. Her mother and father had always stressed honesty. She could remember her mother once telling a clerk that she hadn’t been charged enough for an item. Mom would feel so ashamed of me if she knew!
It’s done now, she decided and put the bracelet behind a thick book.
Each morning when she was ready to leave for school, Leslie took the bracelet from its hiding place. She was careful to keep the bracelet in her coat pocket until she was out of sight of her house. Each afternoon when she returned from school, she repeated the deception. But the thought that she had stolen something depressed her.
It was getting harder to say her prayers each night. When she asked Heavenly Father to forgive her for sins and mistakes, she could almost see the bracelet glowing accusingly from behind the books. I’m a thief! she thought. The thought frightened her.
And Leslie was frightened now for a different reason. Her mother had started taking books from the bookshelf and was methodically dusting each one. Leslie could feel the blood rushing to her head as her mother took out the thick book and saw the bracelet.
Leslie’s mother stopped dusting and slowly turned to face her daughter. “Where did this come from?”
It was difficult for Leslie to begin. But once she started, the words came as freely as the tears that rolled down her face. Her mother’s eyes seemed to penetrate her soul.
In a voice that sounded like it came from a stranger, Leslie heard herself say slowly, “I guess … I’m a thief. Oh, Mother, I’m so sorry!”
Leslie’s mother opened her arms and hugged her daughter. “You made a mistake, Leslie. You took something that belongs to someone else.”
With an arm still around her, Mother pulled her down to sit on the edge of the bed. “I’m going to tell you something I haven’t shared with anyone since I was about your age.
“When I was a girl growing up on a farm in Montana, there weren’t any children living close-by. So, of course, I often felt lonesome. A lady living on the other side of one of our fields became my best friend. Her name was Delfina.
“Whenever I was bored, I would head for Delfina’s one-room home. There wasn’t much furniture in her house, but if I took off my shoes, I could sit on her bed. Then she would share the contents of her jewelry box with me.
“It was the most beautiful jewelry box I had ever seen. In fact, it may have been the only one I had ever seen—shiny ebony, inlaid with mother-of-pearl. To me it whispered of an exciting world I had only read about in books. Its red lacquered interior was filled with tiny trinkets and jewelry.
“One day I went to visit Delfina, but she wasn’t home. I opened her door and went inside anyway. For a while I played with her trinkets. Then instead of putting all the jewelry back into the box, I put some of it into my pocket. When I arrived home, Mom discovered the jewelry. She asked me where I’d gotten it. When I told her I had taken it from Delfina, she said, ‘I know you probably wanted to have something of Delfina’s because she is your friend. If these things are special to you, think how precious they must be to her! Of course, stealing is wrong, no matter whom you steal from. The important thing now is what you’re going to do about it.’
“As I walked back across the field, I looked for every excuse I could find to take more time. Delay as I might, my feet finally took me to her door. Shame and fear overcame me as I knocked.
“When she answered, I looked down at the floor. In a quavering voice I told Delfina what I had done. ‘I’m glad you brought them back,’ she said. ‘They’re keepsakes that belonged to my mother. We all make mistakes. I’m sure you won’t do it again.’
“Then to cheer me up, she fixed my favorite treat of chocolate milk made with corn syrup and cocoa. As I sipped it, I felt as though a heavy load had been lifted from me.”
Mom patted Leslie’s hand. “So you see, dear, we all make mistakes. The important thing is to recognize our mistakes, make amends, and then do better.”
Leslie turned her eyes up to meet her mother’s. Reaching for the bracelet, she said, “Will you take me back to the store now?”