When I was 11, through peer influence, I developed a kleptomanic streak (that means I used to steal stuff, and it became a habit). I only stole one thing in particular, though: back in my day, the large Emporium Holdings (similar to modern-day Isetan or Metro) had a display stand carrying brightly coloured button badges with rubber paint-penned slogans written on them. And I thought I was pretty good at it, too. My conquests, which grew to a good 30-40 button badges, were pinned on my schoolbag for all to see.
But I was caught eventually at my neighbourhood department store, and my dad had to come bail me out from the department store security room. What ensued was the hardest scolding I have ever received from my father, followed by an hour-long belting session that freaked out the entire household.
My mother made me kneel in front of our Buddhist altar – and the entire family – and made me swear never to steal again, never to commit any act of dishonesty, and never to lie to anyone again.
Since then, even if I wanted to, I could never lie. For the longest time, I thought it was because my mother’s altar really was a very effective telephone service to the gods it represented, and the higher powers made it a point to rid me of my bad character. It wasn’t until very recently that I realized it was because of something else altogether.
The day that I was caught stealing, the moment I got into the car and was getting the reprimand of my life, was the day I saw my father – your grandfather – cry for the very first time. And nothing hurt more than to see my father’s disappointment in raising a dishonest son.
Your father isn’t perfect; you probably already know that. And your father isn’t expecting you to be perfect, either; this you should know. But your dad does expect you to grow up to be an honest, upright man.
Don’t ever be what I was when I was 11.