We stopped at Cracker Barrel for lunch on our way home from vacation a few weeks ago, and something interesting happened. Those of you familiar with “The Barrel” (as we refer to it) know that it has a wonderful assortment of candy. We usually let the boys pick out something for the road — Swedish fish for them, Atomic Fire Balls for us. Yum!
Anyway, we finished our lunch and the boys and I went out front, near the rockers, to wait for my husband as he picked out the candy and paid the check. As the boys were rocking away and playing checkers, a young Amish couple (or perhaps they were Mennonites; she had the little white cap and they both had the typical plain clothes) approached son #2 and offered him four very large suckers to share with his brothers. This had never happened to one of my boys, so he was slightly taken aback and didn’t immediately reach for the candy. “It’s OK. You can take it,” said the young man.
I felt my Mama Bear bristle inside of me and I politely said, “No, thank you.” His response to this was to try to hand the suckers to me instead. The boys went crazy and began to beg for a sucker. I again said, “No thank you,” and added, “I’ve taught my boys never to take anything from somebody they don’t know. I need to abide by my own rules. In the grand scheme of things I’m sure it would be fine if I just took the candy, but the boys need to learn this lesson.”
(By the way, I really did use those words. Even under pressure, I kept my cool.)
He smiled and said, “That’s fine. I totally understand. I have three kids of my own. Can I give them to the guy inside?”
“You mean my husband?” I inquired.
“No thank you. He’s not going to take them either.”
The couple intimated that all was fine and left “The Barrel” and us alone. The boys were very curious about what transpired, so I gave them my take on the whole situation. I explained that this was very likely a religious couple trying to perform a random act of kindness. However, our family has a steadfast rule that you never take something from somebody you don’t know. Anybody can dress up to look Amish and/or safe just like anybody can tell you they’re a doctor. You never really know the truth when you’re dealing with a stranger.
I didn’t delve any deeper than this with the boys. However, after much pondering, I felt very sorry that things had to go the way they did. The young man showed such exuberance, almost child-like, with his gift of candy. After I rejected their offer for the third time, I noticed a crimson shade of red on the cheeks of the young woman. Don’t get me wrong, I totally stand by my decision to refuse the candy, but it was almost done at the expense of their innocence. It seems that, in their sheltered world, the potential repercussions of accepting a treat from a stranger are almost unfathomable.
The valuable lessons learned will make everybody in the scenario less naive about this world we live in. Don’t take candy from strangers. Don’t approach random children and offer them candy. In any case, Mama Bear protected her cubs and will do so again. Granted, my adversaries weren’t much of a match. I hope I never need to protect my cubs from a worthier foe.