The Right Thing to Do
By Martha Ruuti, Child Care Worker
At 16 years old, “Wendy” knew it all. She was defiant, angry, and full of rebellion. She had spent most of her life taking care of herself, but she came to us sensing that at this time in her life, she might need a little help. Everyone in her life had yelled and screamed and told her that she was worth nothing. But something inside of her told her they were wrong.
On her first group outing, we went shopping at Walgreen's. Wendy and a new friend had admired rings but didn’t have any money. Later in the day, I noticed that she was wearing the same ring and I knew she couldn’t have paid for it. When I asked where it came from and how she got it, she gave many answers and waited with confusion on her face. There was no hitting, no yelling, no screaming—just me waiting patiently for her to speak. She told the truth: she had taken it from the store. Once again, there was no yelling, hitting, or screaming. She went back to the store, apologized, and paid for the ring.
A little later she began to exhibit defiance, as if to say, “You think that hurt me? Well, you’re mistaken. What do you think that will do?” My quiet answer was simply “It was the right thing to do.”
Six months later, when a new girl came to our cottage and we were sharing the rules with her, Wendy was quick to add, “Don’t steal. You won’t like the feeling you get when you have to apologize to the store, and besides, it’s not the right thing to do.”
Wendy is now in the armed forces and doing very well. Teaching her that lesson was the right thing to do.