One damaged car, one commendable teenager

Last night, I attended a social gathering at a house on a quiet, residential street. I was eating guacamole and chatting with another woman when I noticed the host quietly asking individuals if they happened to be the owner of the jag parked out front. I spoke up, “That’s me. I drive a jag.” He bent over and said, “A kid’s at the door. Apparently he ran into your car.”

My immediate impulse was to assume he was joking. I had been involved in some friendly “my guacamole is better than yours” jibing with a friend just a few minutes before, and I figured it was his little practical joke to get back at me. But no, the host was dead serious, much to my chagrin. You see, I love my car. It was a present I bought myself when I finished my doctorate, and I have loved it like it had feelings ever since. A scratch will send me to the body shop faster than you can say, “You have an unhealthy relationship with your car.” So this news devastated me.

I went to the door and found a tall, terrified young man staring back at me. He was a senior in high school – maybe 17 years old – and he looked me in the eyes and said, “I’m so sorry, but I backed my truck into your car. It’s definitely damaged. I’m so sorry.”

Do you know how many people (grown adults included) would have backed into the car, seen the damage, and taken off as quickly as possible? And here was this young man, likely in his first accident, standing tall and taking responsibility for his mistake. He didn’t try to make excuses or transfer the blame to me for parking where I did. He never told himself that he didn’t know the owner of the car and therefore was justified in leaving. Instead, he knocked on doors until he found the owner and bravely admitted what he had done.

Well, I couldn’t help but throw an arm around him, tell him it was okay, and thank him for being so honest. His reply? “I would never walk away from something like this. I would never want someone to do that to me, so I won’t do it to someone else.”

Now, I ask you, can we all say the same? Do we treat others the way we would want to be treated and have we taught our children to do the same, even when their natural inclination is to protect themselves first?

I wanted to cry when I saw my car, but part of my emotion stemmed from gratitude that there are teenagers out there who will step up and do the right thing, even when it’s the hard thing. I can only hope that I was as gracious in return, that I played some small part in making him feel better for showing his true, wonderful character.

If I were his mother, I would be incredibly proud. The media may focus on shallow, materialistic, selfish teenagers, but there are plenty of good ones out there. They quietly own their decisions and their mistakes, and they grow from them. Let’s be the kind of parents who raise our children to do the same.

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