A couple of things you should know–I’ve been married to middle school ministry for 28 years and counting. I know middle schoolers. I can read ’em like a book.
My hubby’s Sunday school department gives out little rewards called “Baldy Bucks” for when the kids do certain things. Every Sunday, those who remember to bring their Bible to Sunday school can, at a given point in the class, show their Bible and receive a Baldy Buck. It’s worth fifty cents, or the price of a candy bar, at the snack bar, which we open after class.
Sunday I am working the snack bar after class when a boy comes up with Bible in hand. “I didn’t get a Baldy Buck,” he says, brandishing the Bible. “And I want some candy.”
“Why didn’t you go up in class when they were handing out the baldy bucks?” I ask.
I point to the Bible. “This isn’t really your Bible, is it?”
“It’s my sister’s. She has two.”
He shrugs again. “I lost it.”
I smile and suggest that he find it, because I can’t give out baldy bucks under false pretenses.
A few minutes later he comes up with the Bible again, but this time he has a baldy buck. “I’m ready for my candy.”
I nod toward the buck. “Where’d you get it?”
He names one of our younger workers who probably handed it out without thinking–or questioning.
I shake my head. “That’s not right. I think if I gave you a candy bar for this baldy buck, that’d be cheating, don’t you think? What do you think about it?”
He looks at me, then nods.
“And we don’t want to cheat, do we?”
His sister comes up, snacking on her candy, and asks what’s up. I explain that he has used her Bible to get a baldy buck because his is lost. “Why don’t you help your brother find his Bible?”
“Maybe it’s under his bed,” I suggest.
They both walk away and sit in a booth for a while. Then he disappears and she comes over with the baldy buck. “I’d like a candy bar.”
I eye the baldy buck. “Did you get this from your brother?”
“It’s from my other brother.”
“He’s in third grade.”
I sigh, because the third graders are meeting at least a hundred yards away and do not come to our building.
“This baldy buck is void,” I say, taking it from her. “And sweetie, I really don’t care about giving you candy. But I DO care about encouraging you to cheat. I can’t do it. So why don’t you help your brother find his Bible so he can bring it next week?”
She walks away and I stand there, frankly feeling like a heel or a grump or a troll (pick your noun). But if I let them get away with cheating, what are they learning? What lessons will they take with them into high school and college and adulthood? Somehow, somewhere along the way, someone has to say that cheating is wrong and will not be rewarded.
I know there are lots of people who might think I’m making a mountain out of a 50 cent candy bar. Frankly, that’s what it feels like. But there have been people in my life–pastors and relatives, particularly–who took the time to sit me down and rebuke me when I was in the wrong. They taught me about honor and integrity and responsibility, and I’ve never forgotten those lessons. They have been, as my friend Patsy says, “pressed into the veneer of my heart.”
Just this weekend my Bible reading took me to Luke, and the promise that he who is faithful in little things will also be faithful in large ones–and whoever is dishonest in little things won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. (Luke 16:10-11).
So . . . I’ll try not to be a grump, but I have to remain firm. Because little things do mean a lot.