Peter Brooks and Donald Willis were both five years old. They had always been next-door neighbors and number-one buddies. With Donald’s Dalmation, Pokey, at their side, the tireless twosome kept law and order on the “prairies” of the corner vacant lot.
“What those two don’t think up!” Donald’s mom laughed one day as she and Peter’s mom watched the boys zoom past.
“They’re two of a kind,” Peter’s mom agreed. “They always have big plans!”
One day the two pals decided to spend an afternoon exploring new territory—Donald’s garage.
“Just be careful,” Donald’s mom cautioned.
“OK!” the eager boys yelled as they scrambled to raise the heavy garage door.
Inside, Peter and Donald found piles of wonderful stuff: garden supplies, old lumber, carpentry tools, broken appliances. Why, even the walls were covered with fan belts, bicycle tires and chains, camping gear, and kites. But the greatest find of the afternoon was perched high on a dusty shelf. It was a violin case.
Peter steadied a stepladder while Donald climbed carefully up—Mother had said to be careful—and lifted the case down from the shelf.
“Wow!” exclaimed Peter, opening it and removing the instrument. “Look at this old, scratched-up violin.”
With its worn body, loose tuning pegs, and cracked bow, the violin seemed useless to the five-year-olds.
“Hey, look! It doesn’t have strings anymore,” Donald said, giggling. “It can’t even make music.”
The boys’ imagination went right to work. Perching himself high on top of the stepladder, Donald became an orchestra conductor while, below, Peter moved the broken bow across the imaginary strings of the violin.
“I have a better idea,” Donald said. “Let’s chop up this old piece of junk with my dad’s hatchet.”
“Are you sure it’s OK?” Peter asked.
“I—I think so,” Donald stammered.
Without thinking further, the boys took the hatchet from the workbench, and soon the woodchips were flying. Chopping with a hatchet was great fun, but the boys grew silent when they saw the old violin in splinters at their feet.
“Boy, I don’t feel very good,” Peter confided as he looked at the remains of the violin.
“Me either,” Donald said softly.
Just then the garage door swung open, and Donald’s mother walked in. “Hey, you two,” she said, “what’s all the racket out here?”
Looking down, she saw what was left of the violin, and her smile faded. “That was my mother’s violin!” she wailed. “I was going to have it refinished for you one day, Donald. It was one of my greatest treasures.”
Looking very sad, she took Donald by the hand and walked back to the house.
Peter watched with a big knot in his throat. His eyes stung with tears. Donald’s in big trouble, he thought. And it’s my fault too!
Telling his own mom and dad about the violin didn’t make Peter feel any better. “Repenting is more than just feeling bad about the mistake you’ve made,” his dad explained. “When you repent, Peter, you must do all that you can to right the wrong.”
Peter thought about that. I can’t bring the violin back, he decided, but I can tell Mrs. Willis how sorry I am. And I could earn some money to help buy her a new violin. He figured that a new violin would cost at least a dollar.
Peter set out to earn the dollar. He emptied garbage cans, washed dishes, cleaned bathrooms, and dusted. With every dime he earned, Peter felt happier.
After two weeks of hard work, Peter had enough money to pay his tithing and to give Mrs. Willis a dollar.
Peter’s mother helped him write a special note to Mrs. Willis: “I’m sorry for wrecking your treasure. I like you very much, and I’m going to be kinder and think before I do things. I earned this dollar so that you can buy a new violin.” He slid the money into an envelope with the note and left it on the Willises’ doorstep.
“Do you think Mrs. Willis will ever forgive Donald and me for chopping up her violin?” Peter asked his mother that night.
“I hope that she will,” Mother said, smiling gently. “You have done all that you can do right now to make it right.”
The next morning Peter was surprised to find a letter for him on the kitchen table. It said:
I got your note and the money. You must have worked very hard to earn a dollar. I realize how sorry you are for your part in destroying my mother’s violin, and I forgive you. I want you to know that I love you very much.
Peter had never before felt such joy or relief. He knew that he had truly repented and that he had learned an important lesson from the precious violin.