time or another — to annoy or hurt that friend. Whether it was big or
small might contribute to the amount of annoyance or hurt that was
experienced; and whether it was deliberate or not might make a big
difference in the continuing relationship.
But there’s always more to such a situation than what meets the eye.
Take, for example, the dent that you accidentally put in the car when
you backed up without knowing about that thing back there that you
would ram into. No big deal as far as the car was concerned, being
hardly noticeable from several feet away, but noticeable all the same
to the owner when standing right over it. Yet on that particular day
(oh joy of joys) the owner of the car you borrowed was feeling very
generous of spirit, having recently had a fender-bender of her own,
and was understanding and accepting of your little mishap, which was
smaller than hers.
“Whew,” you probably told yourself after it was out in the open and
dealt with. “I am so lucky she was in such a good and forgiving mood!
I’ll try to be a lot more careful in the future!” And so that was your
genuine intention: to never again be so careless and accidentally hurt
your friend or cause her any undue ill will or pain.
It wasn’t very long thereafter that your friend went away for the
weekend and asked you to housesit again — you know: water the plants,
feed and walk the dog, etc. And being her good friend, you naturally
agreed. But it was summer, and it was hot. And even with the
air-conditioning on, the heat made you so thirsty. “Oh no!” you told
yourself. You had forgotten to bring your soda with you, and you
really had a hankering for something other than water! And this time,
there was no car to use and you didn’t feel like schlepping to the
store by bus just to get a bottle of soda.
Then you remembered that there was a bottle of soda in the fridge. It
wasn’t what you usually drink, and it wasn’t yours — but it could be
replaced, you reasoned. After all, soda is soda, right? So without
giving it the more careful consideration it needed, you poured
yourself a big glass of HER soda, totally believing that it could
easily be replaced. Before she returned. And she wouldn’t even have to
But she came back a little early, after you had practically finished
it off, and went straight to the fridge. “WHAT HAPPENED TO THE SODA!”
she shrieked, noticing the nearly empty half-liter bottle. “THAT SODA
WAS FOR MY MOTHER!”
As you shrank down as small as you could make yourself, you wondered
why a bottle of soda would evoke such a response from your friend when
a dent in her car — which would have cost about $2,000 to fix — was
viewed as an “Oh well!” kind of thing. Then you found out why.
“THAT SODA CAN’T BE REPLACED WITH JUST ANY OLD SODA,” said she. “IT’S
FROM CANADA, AND IT’S THE ONLY KIND MY MOTHER DRINKS.”
By now, you were wishing you could be invisible, but you knew you
deserved every word she was saying.
“AND IT ISN’T EVEN THE SODA THAT BOTHERS ME MOST… IT’S THAT YOU
DRANK IT KNOWING IT WASN’T YOURS TO DRINK!”
If only the floor would open up and swallow you. You could hardly feel
any worse. But you stood there in shame and took your verbal blows
like a woman, vowing to never do any such thing again.
And then today happened. Some time had gone by since the soda incident
and you were back in your friend’s house, more or less in her good
graces, watering the plants, feeding and walking the dog, and doing
all the little things that you knew would make her smile. But you got
the nibbles. Badly. You hadn’t anything of your own to nibble on, and
we all know how we get when we get a hankering for a little
something… preferably a little something chocolate. And we need it
And there it was — just sitting there on the shelf, looking so
innocent and alluring: a box of chocolate-covered raisins. Surely you
would be able to run out and get a replacement box before she even
noticed they had been opened and dipped into. And you planned to just
take a few anyway. What’s a few little chocolate-covered raisins
But one raisin led to another and soon the whole box was empty. And it
was only then that you decided to glance at the listed ingredients and
happened to notice that these, too, were from Canada. “Oh no!” you
internally shrieked. “Not Canadian raisins! How can I ever replace
them in time?”
And that is where the story ends for now. The internal anguish that
has been festering inside of her over the consumption of that box of
chocolate-covered raisins is no less than what some sitting down at
Metro might feel when hauled in for a crime they know they committed.
I look at it this way: if a person chooses to commit a crime of his
own free will, that person is not at all concerned with the right or
wrong of it, or else he wouldn’t have committed it. His only thought,
aside from doing the deed, would be to hope he wouldn’t get caught.
But once caught, the thoughts of “What will happen now?” flood his
mind. He is nervous and suffering that internal anguish of the guilty.
Maybe wishing he didn’t do it, but only because he got caught. Yet the
chocolate-covered raisin thief suffers no less; knowing she is guilty,
wishing she didn’t do it, but for a totally different reason: she
sincerely knows she had no right to someone else’s candy; she
sincerely knows she has breached the bond of trust between herself and
her friend; she sincerely understands that she has not mastered
self-control as yet, and doesn’t even know how to explain that breach
in any way that could possibly cause her friend to trust her again.
The raisin thief is utterly downcast; she is beyond consolation.
Having to tell her friend about eating those raisins when she knew
they were not hers to eat is causing her so much emotional turmoil
that it is bringing her to tears. Why, she wonders, can she not have
self-control? Why, she wonders, can she not be trusted to do the right
thing? Why, she wonders, has she broken the bond of integrity that all
friendships need to survive?
What will happen now? Will the friend forgive her? Will they even
still be friends? Will she get past this and discover she has learned
her lesson never to touch another’s food again, no matter what?
I cannot write the ending to that story since I do not know it yet,
but without in any way condoning her breach of trust or ignoring her
own personal loss of integrity, I can tell another very short story
that came to mind after I learned of the raisin thief’s agony. I do
not know if this one is true, but it was told to me as a true story:
A long time ago there was a merchant who had to deliver a truckload of
merchandise across the desert. It was a very long haul, and it was in
the middle of nowhere and in the middle of summer. The merchant drank
up all his water far too soon and there were no stopping places along
the many, many miles left to go on the lonely journey toward his
destination. The sad ending of this story is that the merchant truck
driver died for want of water. If he had only been able to get some
water he might have survived. One wonders if he had had a similar
episode in his past — such as the one the raisin thief recently had —
that made him unwilling to break into his client’s merchandise even to
save his life. You could only imagine the puzzled looks on the faces
of those who found him: a man who died of thirst and dehydration while
driving a truck filled with watermelons!
We are all faced with temptations: a soda here, a box of
chocolate-covered raisins there. If we could only learn to conquer
those “mountains” as we come upon them, we could go on to conquer the
world — our very own self! But in so doing, may we also learn when
it’s okay to break into the watermelons.
Self-mastery is one thing; common sense wedded to wisdom is another.
* * * * *
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She
writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email
her at firstname.lastname@example.org.