In the fall of 1962, after seven years in the state of Washington, we returned to my father’s home town of Winnebago, Minnesota. Starting high school there, I did not know many classmates. For some reason I cannot recall, one September day, I decided to walk home with Steve Cone, even though our house was not in the same part of town. John Erickson was with us and the three of us were walking down the street making small talk. Suddenly, Steve said, “You know in a lot of these houses the people go to work and leave the doors unlocked. Want to see?”
John and I nodded. So Steve suggested we try the house we just passed. John and I followed as he walked around to the back door of the house and tried it. It opened, and the three of us tentatively entered. We walked through the kitchen and then through another door into the dining room. To our shock, there was a woman there. She smiled and did not scream as Steve said calmly, “Hi, Mom, these are my friends John and Ed.”
It took a while for my heart to stop racing and the color to return to my face. To this day, I don’t know if John was in on it or if he was as shocked as I was. All I know is, if I had been older and more frail, there might have been a funeral within days.
I can look back on it now and smile, but I have never forgotten the feeling. And I still do not know why I went along with it. I don’t know why I did not put up any objection. I think it was because I was new and did not want to appear strange. But for some reason, that was the only time I was ever in Steve’s house, and I never knew where John lived. Strangely enough, about five years later, my parents bought the house next door to the Cone house.
What I learned from that experience, besides finding out that being pranked is not that much fun for the victim, is that sometimes going along with the crowd, just to be part of the group, may not be good for your health. But I also learned that we have to be prepared to make quick decisions and that unless we are prepared, we can let the feelings of the moment take over our better judgment.
This time it was harmless. But what about some similar situation? We could have been arrested for breaking and entering, even though the door was unlocked. In this day and age, we could have been shot. Yet, at the time, none of that occurred to me. I just thought it sounded like an adventure.
The fourteen year old brain is not fully developed. I hope the almost 66-year-old brain is. We make mistakes. The important thing is that we learn from them. And thankfully, God forgives. As it says in Psalm 103:13-14, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him: for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.”