It was fifty one years ago—I was twelve years old, about to turn thirteen. I believe it was Mark Twain that said, “When a child turns thirteen, put him or her in a barrel, nail the lid shut and feed them through the knothole until they turn sixteen—then plug up the knothole until they turn twenty one.”
Here’s why I should have been in that barrel. At that time, several of my friends had an inexpensive yet popular motorcycle called a Moped. You would pedal it to get it started and if you needed extra power climbing hills, you could also pedal while the motor was running. I wanted one, no I demanded one. I was one of ten children, however, I only saw myself through my selfish tunnel vision attitude.
I remember in detail everything that transpired that hot August morning like it had happened yesterday. The radio was on in the kitchen as mother was cleaning up after breakfast. The radio was always on in the kitchen between seven and nine o’clock in the morning on weekdays to listen to the “Bonus Merchant Program” with D.J., Tommy Allen. There were about twenty local merchants that received free commercial advertisement during this program. Each day Tommy would announce the name of the “bonus merchant” and then later in the program randomly call someone in our town. If the person he called knew who the bonus merchant was for that day, they won the money that had accumulated daily if nobody had won. The radio station, WAJF-1400 AM would start out with a fifty dollar initial pool and add fifteen dollars every day if there was not a winner. If someone answered correctly, the merchant named would have to pay the jackpot.
Now, back to the Moped morning with mother in the kitchen trying to listen for the bonus merchant for that day, particularly because the jackpot was the largest it had ever been; it was $798.00. Now picture me standing in that kitchen throwing a hissie fit—crying and mad about being socially abused. That was when mother said, “Hal if I win that money today I will buy you the Moped. However, you’ve been carrying on so loudly; I don’t know if they’ve said who the bonus merchant is for today.”
The phone rang and I answered it. To my shock and horror, I heard, good morning, this is Tommy Allen from WAJF’s bonus merchant program, if you can tell me the name of today’s bonus merchant you will win the largest jackpot we’ve ever given away. I didn’t know who it was—mother didn’t know; we didn’t win. Nonetheless, at first, with my pitiful attitude, all I could think about was me—no moped for this boy. Then it dawned on me that I had cheated my family out of over $500.00 and that my attitude had directly affected the altitude that I could have soared to. I just stood there next to the phone for a minute before breaking out in tears and saying, “Mama, I’m so sorry, will you forgive me? She came over to me, wrapped her arms around me and said, “Mama loves you baby and everything will be okay. I’ve never forgotten the bonus merchant for that day—it was Bowling Radio and T.V. Repair and I had to pass it every day on my way back and forth to school. Sometimes life-lessons come hard and we fail to learn that our attitude will always affect our altitude.
Proverbs 15:33 “The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility.”