Excerpt from
The Jensen Family

Probably he got caught in a steel trap like this one over here," their dad said, pointing to an exhibit in the next case.
"But how could he get free from that?" Julie asked.

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– posted 12.04.2009

The Unpayable Debt (4)

A Character story about forgiveness.

The week seemed longer to Carl than any week in his life. For the first time since he could remember, he dreaded the final bell at school. That meant he would have to head right home and play for an hour with his sister. And to make matters worse, she seemed to take this for granted now. She didn't even ask to ride his bike. She just grabbed it when he arrived home, and he couldn't say a thing.
On Friday Carl faithfully reported to Mr. Maloney the 5 hours he invested in his sister as payment of his debt. Mr. Maloney took out a clipboard and marked it down, reminding him that he still had nine more weeks to go.
When Carl arrived home that afternoon, he found his friend Jimmy sitting on the lawn, rubbing his leg.
"Hey, Jimmy, what're you doing here? What happened to your leg?"
"Your bratty sister kicked me," he answered, still wincing in pain.
"Kicked you? Why'd she go and do a stupid thing like that?"
"I came over to see what you were doing, and your sister said you couldn't play because you were going to play dolls with her. Then I told her that was sissy and she kicked me and said I better not call you a sissy because you're the best brother in the whole world."
Carl was stunned. The last thing he wanted was for any of the guys to find out he was playing dolls with Janice! He felt like crawling in a hole. Now he'd have to think of an excuse to be sick on Monday. He couldn't possibly face the other guys when this got out.
"Man, I'm sure my sister wouldn't stick up for me like that," Jimmy continued. "What'd you do make her stick up for you like that?"
"Oh. . .ah. . .I don't know. . . just- just spent some time with her. . ah. . doing stuff she likes to do, I guess," Carl answered.
At supper that night, Carl's mother made an announcement. "Carl, we're having your favorite dessert tonight- strawberry shortcake. I wanted to do something special for you to show you how much I appreciate the change we've seen in you lately. I went to the store today especially to get the ingredients."
"That's right," Carl's dad added. "We've noticed that you've been working on sharing your things with Janice, and not fighting. And mother tells me you have given up playing ball with your friends just to spent time with your sister. We're proud of you, Son. That shows real maturity. Not many boys your age would do that. And it surely does make our home a lot happier place to live."
"Well. . .ah. . . it's really not-"
"Just to show you how much it means to me to have you giving of yourself like this, I've worked out my schedule so that you and I can go on that overnight fishing trip to Timberly Lake next Friday. How's about it?"
"Wow! You really mean it?"
"Sure do. We can leave right after supper."
"But I don't really think I deserve these treats. You see. . .ah. . . I. . I-"
"Yes you do," Janice interrupted, jumping up and putting her arm around his neck. "You have been a wonderful, wonderful brother. All the other girls are jealous when I tell them how nice you've been. And just because you let me ride your bike all those times, I'm gunna give you my very bestest doll. Here."
Carl reached for the doll, but stopped. "I'll tell you what. You keep it in your room, and then when we play together, we'll know right where it is."
"O.K." Janice answered, "but don't forget; it belongs to you."
As Carl lay in bed that night, his thoughts were swimming with the events of the evening. He knew he didn't deserve all the honors, but he had promised Mr. Maloney he would not tell why he was doing it. Yet, in spite of his bad attitude, a lot more good was coming from this project than just paying back the debt. He needed to talk with Mr. Maloney about it right away.
The next morning Carl got up much earlier than his usual Saturday time and rode his bike toward the store. On the way, he noticed a few of the guys in the park, playing catch.
"Hey, you gunna get a game up this morning?" he called.
"We wanted to, but now we can't. And it's all your fault."
"My fault?" Carl gasped. "How could it be my fault?"
"Because your sister's been telling all the girls how much time you've been playing with her and what a wonderful brother you are and how she wished their brother was as good as you and junk like that, and now half the guys are home playing with their bratty sisters. If this keeps up, it'll be a year before we have enough guys to play a game."
"Oh, brother!" Carl said out loud. "I-I'll be back in a few minutes."
Carl raced to the store and waited until Mr. Maloney was free. "Mr. Maloney, things aren't working out right."
"Things? Like what things?" Carl told him what had happened the evening before, and the conversation in the park. "Hmmm," Mr. Maloney responded with a smile, "I'd say things are working out quite well actually."
"So should I tell my parents why I've been playing with Janice? I don't feel right about it; I feel almost like I deceived them. And what about the other guys? They'll all be sore at me now."
"Well, as for your family, you must keep your reason a secret. And you must not let up. Remember, you still have 9 weeks to go. And as for the other guys, why not tell them to bring their sisters to the park? You could invite them to play ball, but they'd probably rather play on the swings while you have a game. That way, you're both having a good time. Oh, and if you invite Janice, you can count that time for me as well."
"Hey, that's a great idea. Thanks, Mr. Maloney."
The next Friday Carl returned to the store to report his time to Mr. Maloney. "I'm not just sure how much time I can count this week, Mr. Maloney. Janice and me did stuff together all week. I-I know this is gunna shock you, but actually I've started to enjoy spending time with her. Once you get to know her, she's really not half bad. And we have a lot fewer fights. My Mom has got calls from the other guys' moms telling what a difference it's made in their home when they followed my example. I-I feel like a hero who doesn't deserve it."
"You mean your giving of yourself has been contagious?"
"Yeah, I guess kind of like that."
"Have you figured out how you're going to get Janice to pay back that $4 she owes you for the tire?"
"Oh, that? I guess I forgot all about it. She's done so many nice things for me now, I don't even want the $4. But I was thinking about something else. I wanted to do something nice for Janice that wasn't just what I have to do. I was wondering, Mr. Maloney, when I get this debt paid off to you, would you let me come in and work at your store? I wanted to earn some money for a new bike for Janice. I know that's what she'd like more than anything else."
Mr. Maloney grinned as tears welled up in his eyes. "You already have, Carl."
"I have? When?"
"You see, I have wanted to forgive your debt, but I knew that I couldn't do that until you forgave Janice her debt. And I knew you wouldn't do that until you started to love her for who she is. I was so sure that you would change, that I've been applying all your earnings toward a nice red girl's bike I have in the back room. Say, why don't you bring Janice down to the store, and we'll surprise her?" (The End)

"For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:" (Matthew 6:14) "And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." (Ephesians 4:32)