I don’t know what got into me that brisk autumn Sunday evening. My mom always said only Church magazines on Sunday and no television until “The Wonderful World of Disney.” But I never once heard her mention stealing pumpkins.
I went to visit a family I was assigned to home teach. Their middle daughter (who happened to be the love of my life) mentioned that they needed a jack-o’-lantern for the upcoming holiday. “There are no stores open,” I thought, “and even if there were we couldn’t buy one on Sunday.”
“Come with me,” she said, flipping her soft golden hair over her right shoulder. And then, the eyes. Those mischievous green eyes suggested that she had something in mind.
I know. We didn’t need eight pumpkins, but the collecting process was great fun. Some were at the end of the driveway, others on the front porch. Some victims owned dogs, big dogs, and others guns. Good heavens, we’d be shot for sure. We drove all over the township of Argyle, New York. A younger sister and a friend insisted on coming along, so the four of us, with the eight pumpkins, were very cozy in the small car.
Then came the Great Harvest Pumpkin. It was four feet wide and two feet tall and weighed 70 pounds. We spotted it in the moonlight, guarding an unlighted porch on the east end of the house. Leading to the monster was a crunchy leaf-covered sidewalk. The porch was old and creaky, and there was a dog, with a bark like a Doberman, hiding in the ominous shadow behind the house. People’s voices could be heard in the lighted west end of the house. This would surely be the pumpkin that would qualify us for the 1990 Olympic pumpkin-stealing team.
We tried to step where the leaves weren’t as we approached the porch, hoping that George house owner and Fang the dog would not discover our presence. We climbed onto the creaky porch, hugged the giant vegetable, and quietly strained to lift it. We wobbled down the sidewalk, ran a five-second 100-meter dash to the getaway car, and sped into the darkness.
Upon our arrival at home, we laughed, joked, and carved. Even then I knew it was wrong. But somehow it seemed okay because it was also fun.
A year later, I was a full-time missionary. On a cool autumn night, my companion and I were teaching the discussion that describes remorse, recognition, repentance, and restitution. Wow, that hit me. This plan sure was complete. I thought to myself, “Sure is a good thing I’ve never stol …” Suddenly I was filled with guilt. I had stolen something! Nine somethings! I was guilty! How could I restore those pumpkins? How could I remember where I had taken them from? I would get home two years after I’d stolen the pumpkins and two weeks after Halloween! Well, I figured, at least it would be great to be home for Thanksgiving.
“That’s it!” I said. “Pumpkins and Thanksgiving!”
One year, one month, and two days later, in Argyle, New York, my younger brother and I went to the store and bought nine pumpkin pies. I was somehow able to remember each house and how many pumpkins I had taken from each. Each one received the like number of confessions, apologies, and pies. That was the most humiliating thing in the world.
Almost. Because now, as I look back, I’m still embarrassed when I think about my attitude back then. Having fun didn’t excuse anything. How could I think it did? The one thing I am glad about is that the Lord prompted me to realize it and gave me the courage to do something about it.