When I was in the seventh grade I walked five long blocks to school in an area of the city in transition from rural to suburban. The city had once had an elaborate system of electric trolley cars that ran on railroad tracks and were powered by an overhead electric grid. At some point the trollley system had been switched out for rubber-tired buses. Some of the old trolley cars had been converted into diners and could be found at various locations around town—including on my way to and from junior high school.
One day, my friend, Paul, and I eyed the old abandoned trolley that we had walked past at least twice every weekday for months and wondered what treasures we might find inside. There was a patched window in the front door, covered only with a piece of cardboard. Once we had made up our minds to explore, it took only seconds to remove the cardboard and gain access.
We found a long counter fronted by stools with padded revolving seats covered in red naugahide . A long mirror was mounted on the wall behind the counter. A couple of glass cabinets framed the mirror like bookends. I assumed they had once been used to display pies, donuts and other tasty edibles. Behind and under the counter were shelves that still held a few heavy white porcelain plates and some old Coca-Cola glasses.
A small kitchen had been added like a lien-to to the trolley’s backside. It housed an old black gas-fired stove with a grill top that we imagined had fried up many a delicious greasyburger. After exploring for what seemed a long time, we retreated by the same means by which we had entered. I don’t remember ever going back. I suppose our curiosity had been satisfied. I don’t remember taking anything nor commiting any act of vandalism—we were just satisfying our youthful urge to explore.
If it had been today and we had been caught “breaking and entering” I suppose we would both have ended up in an alternative school and been adjudicated juvenile delinquents. My Dad would have warmed my behind and let the natural consequences of my actions take effect. I don’t think he would have cut me any slack.
In spite of my delinquency, my parents did their best to raise me properly. I’m sure my parents weren’t too different from yours in that regard. I wonder, though, how many of those teachings really get inside us. Carl W. Buehner told a story about a man being interviewed: “If you had two houses, would you give one to a person in need who has no house?’
“The man said, ‘Yes, I think I would.’
“The interviewer said, ‘Well, if you had two cars and discovered someone who had no car, who really needed a car, would you give him one of your cars?’
“And the man said, ‘Yes, I think I would.’
“He said, ‘Well, if you had two horses, and you knew someone that loved a horse but could not afford a horse, would you give him a horse?’
“The man said, ‘Well, I don’t think I would.’
The interviewer said, ‘You don’t think you would! Why a horse is much less expensive than a house or an automobile. Why wouldn’t you?’
“The man replied, ‘Well, you see, I HAVE two horses.’” (Carl W. Buehner, BYU Speeches of the Year, April 11, 1962, p.10)
What would I do if I had the opportunity to help someone else? What would I do if I had the opportunity to satisfy my curiosity by doing something illegal, immoral or fattening? How will I react when my son or daughter does something that doesn’t make me proud? I think we need to know ahead of time who we are and what we represent before we break into that trolley.