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Story ID:10686
Written by:Frederick William Wickert (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Everywhere Every state Usa
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By Fred Wickert

I was reading an essay on Ourecho yesterday and left a comment. I had left another comment on yet another post the day before. The writer was going on and on about something in the news, but she had it all wrong. She completely misunderstood what it was all about.

I have so many times had misunderstandings with family or friends because we misunderstood something the other had said, or the other way around.

Sometimes people are trying desperately to get our attention but we are so busy with our lives that it just doesn’t register and we miss it altogether. I will give you an example of what I mean.

Many years ago I was a small town police chief. I came across a situation I found difficult to understand. It involved a school kid. He was one of the nicest kids in town. I knew him well. He was the last kid I was looking for to be in trouble. He had great parents. His father was a school teacher who painted houses in the summer months for additional income. His mother was an employee of the county and was involved in helping families in trouble. She especially helped some of the senior citizens to keep their homes and their lifestyle when they were threatened by unexpected emergencies they were unable to pay for, but she was involved with so much more than that. Both parents enjoyed a great deal of respect in the community.

This boy had become involved in theft. He was stealing from local stores and he was stealing from a construction site. He had no use for the things he stole. Some of it he gave away to other kids. Some he just hid in a man hole in the front lawn of the high school. When I picked him up for it, he readily confessed. I kept asking myself why? Why? Why a boy like him and from a family like his, would he do such a thing? When confronted by his father, he was angry over his father having the family dog put down.

I did not want to see this boy get in trouble and I did not want him to have a criminal record. It was true that he was an under aged juvenile and the records would be sealed, but sometimes those things leak out in spite of what is done to keep them from going public.

I remembered an event in my own life when I was a kid. I had stolen candy bars. I once stole a bunch of Red Cross pins. Then one day I stole a cigarette lighter at the gas station where Dad did business. It was right after WWII and the man had been given this U.S. Army Zippo lighter by the men in his platoon. It meant a lot to him. Oh yes, I had also once stolen a bayonet at an armory after a fire, but that is another story for another time. This man who owned the Zippo lighter knew I had taken it and spoke to my Dad about it.

Dad came home and asked me about it. I confessed that I had taken it. I expected the usual whipping but it didn’t come. Something far worse in my view at the time, happened to me. Dad made me take the lighter, go back to the gas station, and return the lighter to its owner together with an apology. There were always people around there and therefore it was going to be rather public. I did as I had been told. I returned the lighter to the man, told him I was sorry and added I was never going to do it again. He accepted the lighter and he accepted my apology. I felt so humiliated, embarrassed and ashamed. I felt so small that if there had been a nail hole in the wall, I could have crawled in to it to hide.

I never forgot that experience. I never forgot how small it made me feel and how ashamed I was. I also knew the effect it had. I never stole things from anybody again. I discussed my plan with the boy’s father, and with the two parties from whom the stuff had been stolen. They all agreed with my plan.

I picked up the boy after school. I made him retrieve the things he had stolen. Then I went first to the construction site. I had him return the tools he had stolen and apologize to the persons that owned them. Then I took him with the merchandise from the Ben Franklin and had him return it and apologize. Some he had given away so it wasn’t there, and a couple of items the packaging had been destroyed so it could not be sold. The boy earned money with a paper route in the mornings before school and he paid for the stuff that could no longer be sold.

All parties were satisfied and the boy had been humiliated. We were sure he would never do it again.

A year later I got a call on the radio to go to a certain home on baker Ave. A middle aged woman and her elderly mother lived there together. She was getting ready to go to work. A person or persons unknown had entered her front door, walked down the hall to the kitchen, taken her purse from the kitchen table and walked out of the house with it. When she came in the kitchen and found it gone, she rushed to the front door and looked up and down the street. No one was on the street anywhere. She called the police.

When I arrived and got the information, I began a preliminary investigation. This was serious business. This involved a home invasion burglary and grand larceny. There were at least two major felonies involved. There was a garage near the house that was owned by the county Fire Marshall. I saw no one on the street but I did notice he was doing something in his garage. I went over to the garage and asked Bill if he had noticed anyone out on the street at all when he came to the garage that morning. He reflected a moment and replied, “Nobody except the paper boy.”

I was certain instantly that it was that same boy that had taken the purse. When he was confronted he instantly admitted it. He had gone up on the front porch to deliver the paper, seen through the screen door the purse lying on the table and went in, took it and left with it.

When I asked what he had done with the purse and the wallet it contained, with her ID, driver’s license and credit cards, he said he had thrown it in the river. He had just kept the money and wanted to get rid of the remainder as quickly as he could. His father demanded to know why he needed the money. He had a savings account. He replied that he needed it to buy marijuana. He couldn’t use the money in his savings account because his father would ask questions about why he was withdrawing it. His father was dumfounded. He had no clue his son was using pot.

This time I could not cover it up for the boy. There was a home invasion and felonies involved. I had to file a report and I had to refer it to Family Court. His father engaged a lawyer. The Family Court Judge ordered an appearance at 9:00 A.M. on Monday. While I was processing the paper work and getting the boy arraigned, he made a remark that nobody listened to him. When I tried to find out why he did such a thing, that was the only reply I was able to get from him. He volunteered any other information and turned over his pot smoking stuff voluntarily.

When we went to court on Monday morning the judge wanted to see me, the family attorney and the county attorney in his chambers. We all answered all the questions he had. Then I asked the judge if I might say something. The judge said yes. The family attorney tried to stop me but the judge over ruled him. I told the judge that this was the second time the boy was in trouble. I told him the circumstances of the first time and how I had handled it. He seemed to approve. I told him it seemed to me in both cases that the there was a lack of communication between the boy and his parents, and that from remarks made, I believed the boy was acting out to get attention and have his parents communicate with him.

The judge instantly jumped right on that. Later the county attorney praised me for it and the family attorney, who was also the county Probation Officer, told me in a disgruntled fashion that I had a lot to learn about Family Court and some day he was going to teach me. He never did.

The judge ruled the boy and his parents together were to attend psychiatric counseling for 26 weeks and he was going to continue the case until after they had complied and the Psychiatrist had reported to the court. The family attorney and the parents were very unhappy with me because of that. They never would have done it had the judge not ordered them to.

The boy never got in any more trouble. He was 15 years old at the time. At the time he graduated from high school he looked me up and thanked me. He said had it not been for me, things would have turned out differently. Several years later I saw his mother. I asked her about him. She was very proud of him. He was a very successful Navy Officer. He had a great career in the navy, was married and had two children of his own. She seemed to have gotten over her anger with me.

All of this happened just because the parents were not communicating with the boy. When the dog was put down, they never bothered to explain to the boy why. He was highly upset and resentful that it had been done. Perhaps if they had explained to him why it was necessary, things could have been different.

It seems to me that much if not most of all the problems we are having in our country today, is because people in all walks of life are not communicating with each other. I have seen examples several times in the news of late, where some people get in a heated argument over something just because somebody took something that was said or written the wrong way.

Members of the media and politicians in particular need to understand that people are from all walks of life. Their life experiences are not the same. When something is said, it may not be perceived in the same way it was meant. We need to stop being in such a hurry. When we say things we need to stop and see if it is understood the way we mean it. If not, then explain it until they do. Most of us are not mind readers. Sometimes we think something that is said meant something completely different than that which was intended. We also need to be sure we use the best words to express ourselves.

WE NEED TO LEARN TO COMMUNICATE BETTER WITH EACH OTHER! I think if we did that, there would be far less misunderstanding in this world. I know we are all very busy, but parents, you must make the time to talk to your kids, and you must make sure they understand you when you do. It just might save your life someday! It just might save your child’s life someday too!

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