| 22 Feb 2012 | 07:52

    Rustling raspberries Stealing? Well, yes - I guess we were stealing, if you want to get all technical about it. But in our 13-year-old brains we were just using the raspberries as God intended them to be used. The matter of ownership never occurred to us. We just knew that the Jordans had the best raspberries in the neighborhood, and that their bushes were always heavy with fruit. And suddenly that summer Friday night, a handful of freshly picked raspberries sounded good. Maybe two handfuls. So we snuck into the Jordans’ backyard - which, come to think of it, should have been our first clue that we were doing something wrong: we “snuck.” Anytime sneaking is involved, it means you don’t want to get caught, which usually means you shouldn’t be doing it. But we snuck into their backyard and positioned ourselves carefully around the bushes and started harvesting their sweet, juicy berries. Now, I’ve got to tell you, there isn’t anything that tastes better than vine-ripened raspberries, fresh off the bush. I probably shouldn’t admit it, but they seem to taste even better if there is a little subterfuge involved. And we were savoring every bite of ill-gotten berry when all of a sudden the Jordans’ backyard lights flicked on, and Mr. Jordan came charging outside. “What you boys doing out here?” he shouted as my friends scrambled off in all directions, uneaten raspberries flying every which way. He made a valiant attempt to grab one or two as they dashed past him, but they were too quick for the older gentleman to catch, and within seconds the boys disappeared into the dark of the summer evening. All except one. Uh, that would be me. Speed was never my strength. I was tall. I was strong. But I wasn’t very fast. Fast was for the little quick guys. I was all about size and power, neither of which come into play when you’re trapped in a back yard, your lips red with juice from a neighbors’ precious raspberries. So I stood there, deer-in-the-headlights style, and quickly considered my options. I could run, but I knew perfectly well that even as old as Mr. Jordan was, he could probably out-run me. I could lie, but I couldn’t come up with a believable story that would explain why I was in their backyard wearing a t-shirt stained with fresh raspberry juice. Or I could just stand there and accept whatever punishment would surely come my way from the Jordans and my parents. To be honest, I didn’t like that last option, but I didn’t really have a choice. I took the tongue-lashing that Mr. Jordan gave me as he marched me down the block to my house, where my mother took over and escalated the harangue to new levels of righteous scolding. My friends said they could hear every colorful word she uttered from the darkness of our back yard, where they had gathered to celebrate their escape - and to observe my capture. They teased me about it for days afterwards, while all I could do was complain about how unfair it was that I had to pay the full price for doing the exact same thing all of them had done without any noticeable consequences. After about a week of this I complained to my father about the inequity of the situation (and in case any of the boys are reading this: no, I didn’t rat you out - I think the statute of limitations on raspberry rustling had already elapsed). “I don’t think it’s unfair at all,” Dad said. “You took raspberries without asking, and you got exactly the punishment you deserved.” “But what about the other guys?” I asked. “They didn’t get punished at all!” “That’s not my concern, nor should it be yours,” Dad said. “You can’t control what happens to other people. You can only deal with what happens to you. You made a bad choice that night, and you were punished for it. To me, that is completely fair.” Back then I thought Dad just didn’t get it. But through the years I come to realize that, as usual, he knew what he was talking about. We didn’t come to earth with a guarantee that life would treat us fairly. And it doesn’t. That’s why we can’t get bogged down comparing the various vicissitudes of our lives with the lives of others. Like Dad said, that isn’t our concern. The only thing we can actually deal with is what happens to us. How we choose to respond to what happens to us is truly the standard by which the quality of our lives will be measured. Whether or not we think it happens fairly.