Tennis Anyone?

Tennis Anyone?

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Be The Best You Can Be

Tennis Anyone?

Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. There are too many people who think that the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing that’s wrong is to get caught.

~J.C. Watts

One summer when I was about ten years old, my brother and I received a wonderful gift — tennis rackets and balls. We had never had the opportunity to play tennis, so this was exciting. However, there was one problem — the small town we lived in did not have a tennis court.

One Saturday morning my brother said, “Hey, I’ve got an idea. Let’s take our tennis rackets and balls to the school and hit the balls against the school building.”

“Great idea! Let’s go,” I agreed, not realizing what a lesson we would learn before the experience was over.

When we got to the school ground, no one was around, so we began hitting our balls against the side of the two-story brick building.

“I’ll hit it the first time,” my brother suggested, “then you hit it the next time. We’ll hit it back and forth to each other.”

So we began taking turns hitting the ball, getting more confident with each stroke. Actually, we became pretty good at returning the ball and we were hitting the ball higher and faster each time.

Suddenly, the unthinkable happened — the ball got out of control and went crashing through one of the upstairs windows.

We looked around and no one was in sight — except — there was an old man sitting on a porch halfway down the block.

Quietly, I asked, “Now what should we do? Our ball is inside the school.”

“Well,” my brother responded, “no one will know whose ball it is. And no one saw us, except that old man down there. And he probably can’t see this far.”

“He probably doesn’t know who we are anyway,” I added.

“Let’s go home,” my brother suggested.

“Okay,” I agreed. “Should we tell Mom and Dad?”

“I don’t know,” my brother answered.

As we picked up the rest of our balls and headed for home, the decision as to whether we should tell what had happened was carefully weighed out. But that decision was made for us the moment we walked into the house.

Our mother was always in tune with her children. “What happened?’ she asked as soon as she saw us.

“Well,” my brother slowly began. “We had a great time hitting the tennis balls against the school.”

Then I interrupted, “until we hit it too hard and too high and it went right through the school window.”

“Oh, my goodness!” my mother exclaimed. After a short pause, she continued, “You will have to tell your father as soon as he gets home.”

And so we did. As soon as he walked in the house, we both hurried to him and poured out our story.

His response was typical. “Well, today is Saturday and tomorrow is Sunday, but first thing Monday, I will call the school janitor and see what we need to do. You will probably have to pay for the window.”

We had two agonizing days to wait until our dad got home from work on Monday.

He looked very somber and we were sure that the news was bad. We were sure that every penny we had saved would have to go to fix the window.

Then my dad smiled. “Well, I talked to the school janitor and he was surprised to hear from me. He had been sitting on his porch watching while you two were playing tennis on Saturday. He saw the whole thing and was surprised when I called to tell him what had happened. He said many windows had been broken, but we were the first ones to call and admit that we were responsible. He said the school budget allows for window repair, so we will not have to pay for the window, but he was glad we called.”

He could see our relief as he continued. “I am proud of you kids for having the courage to tell us what happened.”

I’m not sure at that moment whether we were happier to be able to save our money, or to hear our dad say he was proud of us. But either way, we discovered that there is always someone who sees what we do and we might as well confess our mistakes and be willing to take the consequences.

~Shirley M. Oakes

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