I had an old, yellow, wiffle ball bat at home. I didn't know what had happened to the wiffle ball, it had long been lost, but as device to hit objects with, the wiffle ball bat was still serviceable. So, I took it with me to the playground, walked over to home plate, and picked up a handful of small pebbles to hit. I would toss the first pebble into the air, and whack it with the bat. The pebble would fly off into the air, unlike anything that I had ever hit. and before long, my reality became me, batting behind Willie Mays, in the World Series. I could hear the crowd as I came up to the plate. Willie had already safely hit, a double, and was standing on second base, cheering me on. It was two outs, the bottom of the ninth in the the seventh, and final game of the World Series. It all depended on my bat. And so, the pitcher went into his wind-up, released the ball, and fired it towards me. Me, I was not one to take a pitch. If it was anywhere in the strike zone, I was going to swing. And this pitch came, hard and fast, and as it approached me, I took a hard swing at the ball and sent it careening towards the center field fence. Oh yes, it was gone. And as the crowd got louder and the ball cleared the fence, that's when I heard the crash. And it was a loud crash. And that crash brought me quickly back to reality.
When I came to my senses, I could see the window, shattered, missing a pane. This was not good. Apparently I had picked up too large of a rock and instead of hitting it towards the center field of our local baseball diamond, I kind of shanked it off the bat and sent it right through Mrs. Vinnie's window. I looked around, and noticed that no one was stirring. It was still early in the morning, and I thought I might have gotten lucky. So I tossed the bat behind the back stop, and quietly crept away from the diamond, making my way towards home. With each step I took, I glanced around to see if anyone had witnessed my bad deed. The more steps I took, the more convinced I became that I had not been spotted. I was home free. So, I began to walk more confidently as I neared home.
I opened the kitchen screen door, and walked into the kitchen. My mom was in there cooking. When I came in, she looked up, smiled and greeted me. "Hey mister." she said. "Where have you been this morning?"
"Around," I answered and started to walk out the room.
"Is that so," she answered. "Well, young man, you need to turn around and walk back out that door and go visit with someone. Then you need to work out with her how you are going to pay for the damages. Once you have that figured out, you need to head on back home. Are we clear?"
"Yes ma'am." I answered and turned to walk out the door.
"And by the way," she added, as I hit the stairs to the walk, "Be sure to stop on the way home and pick up a switch. We need to have a discussion when you get back."
"Yes momma." I ended, and headed down the street to meet with Mrs. Vinnie.
Mrs. Vinnie was a widow. She drank Iron City Beer, dipped snuff, and could curse with the best of them. Quite frankly, she scared me. Nevertheless, I went down and met with her. She read me the riot act and told me that I would work for her until I worked off the cost of replacing a new window. That turned out to be one of the longest, hardest summers of my life. Every weekend, on Saturday morning, after I had collected for my paper route, and before I went off to play baseball, I had to go to her house and work. Sometimes I mowed the grass. Sometimes I pulled weeds. I cleaned gutters, her basement, moved furniture around and painted. Whatever she wanted me to do, I did. And in the process of all this work, we became great friends, to the point that by the end of the summer, I really didn't mind doing what I had to do. I had long ago paid for the cost of the window, but I continued to work. By the time school rolled around, she had come to rely on my help. I didn't mind. She was my friend.
Sometimes when we do wrong, the punishment that we receive can be the best thing that could ever happen to us. It gives us the opportunity to think about what we have done and to make amends. And many times, many unexpected things can happen. Sometimes we make life long friends, as I did. But regardless of what the outcome may be, the best outcome is that we come out better people in the end.