“Choose the Right”

By Sheila R. Woodard

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    (Based on a true incident)

    “Come on, Sam,” Jeremy said as he walked along the old dusty roadbed with his friends. “Nobody will know but us.”

    Lagging behind the group, I thought about the conversation Jeremy and I had had that morning. He had told me about his plan to steal watermelons from Brother Vargas. I knew stealing was wrong, but I thought if I did what he wanted, we would be friends. So when he had finished talking, I told a lie. “I know all about stealing. It’s easy. I’ve done it before.”

    “You have!” he had exclaimed, looking surprised. “Wait until I tell the other guys.” After he had told everyone in the group, they looked at me with renewed interest. I liked that, but now I was in trouble. I didn’t want to steal anything, especially Brother Vargas’s prize watermelons.

    Brother Vargas was as old as my grandpa, but he had been my only friend when we first moved to Fawn Creek. He knew I was lonely and needed a friend. And I knew that the money from his melon field made up most of the income he and Sister Vargas lived on.

    “Hurry up, Sam,” one of the kids called over his shoulder. “Brother Vargas will be back soon to pick up another load of melons. If we don’t get to his field before he does, we’ll have to wait until tomorrow.”

    Oh, well, I thought, walking faster, I need friends my own age. Jeremy’s in my Primary class and my Scout troop, and all the guys like him. If we become friends, I’ll have a lot of guys to hang around with. Besides, Mom thinks he’s a good friend. So did I—until now.

    When I caught up to Jeremy, he began making plans. “Clint, you be the lookout. If anyone comes, whistle. Brett, you take Sam and head for the nearest row of melons. Jeff and I will be right behind you. Remember, we won’t have much time, so don’t be too choosy. Just get the biggest ones you can carry.”

    “Yeah,” Clint agreed, licking his lips. “We already know how good they taste.”

    “What if we get caught?” I asked.

    “Getting nervous?” Brett questioned.

    “Not me,” I lied for the second time in a half hour. “You’re right; we’d better hurry.”

    The real reason I wanted to hurry had nothing to do with taking melons. The truth was, I didn’t want to see the way Brother Vargas would look at me if he caught me robbing him. We were friends, and true friends take care of each other. I was starting to feel awful.

    “Don’t worry, Sam,” Jeremy said. “No one will find out.”

    How did I get into this situation? I wondered. I needed someone to blame. So I blamed Mom. It’s her fault we moved after Dad died.

    “Yeah, sure,” I muttered under my breath. “And look at what you’re doing.” I knew why Mom had sold the house. She didn’t want to go to work and leave me home alone. She’d loved that old house, and I knew she didn’t want to move away from her friends any more than I did.

    “Sam, you’re dragging your feet again,” Jeremy said.

    “Yeah, I know,” I said, as I sent a rock flying across the road with the side of my foot.

    When we finally reached Brother Vargas’s melon field, I knew I had made the worst decision of my life. But I didn’t know how to get out of it. Then the words to a song we were learning in Primary popped into my head. I began to sing softly:

    “Choose the right when a choice is placed before you. In the right the Holy Spirit guides; And its light is forever shining o’er you, When in the right your heart confides” (“Choose the Right,” Hymns, number 239).

    When I got to the chorus, all the boys began to sing with me. When we finished, I knew I had to say something. “We can’t do this!” I declared looking first at the guys and then at the melon field. “This just isn’t right.”

    “But you said you’ve stolen things before,” Jeremy said accusingly.

    “That was a lie,” I admitted. “I’ve never stolen anything in my whole life, and I don’t want to start now.”

    “Neither do I,” Clint said, walking over to stand next to me.

    Surprised, I turned to Clint. “I thought you had stolen before. You even said you knew how good Brother Vargas’s melons are.”

    “We lied, too,” Brett admitted. “Brother Vargas gives my family watermelons from his field every year.”

    “Yeah, and they sure are good!” Jeff said, almost drooling. “He gives melons to anyone who wants them.”

    “Then why were we going to steal them?” I asked, almost shouting.

    “We thought it would be fun,” Clint said as he dug the point of his shoe into the loose dirt.

    “Yeah,” Jeremy agreed, his voice a whisper. “But it sure doesn’t seem like fun now.”

    When Brother Vargas drove up, we were sitting in the shade of the big metal shed still talking about his watermelons.

    “Hi, boys,” he called. “It’s good to see you. I could sure use your help putting another load of melons on the truck.”

    Feeling a little guilty, we asked him how we should do it so we wouldn’t damage the melons. Two hours later, after the truck was loaded, he offered us jobs for the rest of the summer. Then he said, “Each of you take a watermelon home to your families.”

    “My family is going to love this!” Brett said excitedly. “Just yesterday Dad said his mouth was watering for a taste of Brother Vargas’s melons.”

    “Mine, too,” Clint said with a big grin.

    After Jeff, Clint, and Brett headed for home, only Jeremy and I were left.

    “I’m sorry, Sam. I guess I just got carried away.”

    “I’m sorry, too, Jeremy. I’m glad we finally made the right decision.”

    Jeremy’s whole face lit up. “So am I! Now we can eat watermelon without feeling bad—and we have jobs, too! It doesn’t get much better than that!”

    Illustrated by Mark Robison