A Jar of Peanuts

Even though it was over fifty years ago, I can still see the children coming into the grocery store and sitting in front of the candy case with their pennies clutched tightly in their sweaty little hands. I didn’t rush them to make this important decision as to whether to choose one piece of candy with their penny or get the bargain of two for one. I loved to see them and to hear their little giggles and conversations.

While many of my friends were gathered at a new ice cream parlor in Montague, Michigan called ‘The Hob Nob’, I was working in the grocery store after school and on Saturdays.

I began my career in the store when I was fourteen and it became my place of employment until I graduated from college. I would work on week-ends to make extra money. At that time, making fifty cents an hour gave me enough spending money for the entire week.

Not only did I wait on customers but I was shown every aspect of the grocery business. I worked in the stockroom, opened boxes, stamped the prices on the items and arranged them on the shelves. I ground meat and sliced meat. I learned who the vendors were and ordered items and checked invoices. I swept the floors, dusted and stocked the shelves. The one thing I was always warned about was someone robbing or stealing something from the store when I was by myself. I was taught that if someone came to steal money I was to give them all the money in the cash register without hesitation. However, I was never told what to do if I saw someone stealing.

One afternoon a young boy came into the store. As he began walking slowly through the store, I asked him if I could help him find what he was looking for. He politely said “no”. I was stocking a shelf, but looked up just in time to see him unzip his jacket, take a jar of peanuts, put it in his jacket, zip up his jacket and walk out the store.

I knew I couldn’t let him get away with this. There were no other customers in the store so I quickly followed him. He was walking quite fast, but I began to run after him. I yelled as loud as I could, “STOP”. He then turned, and when he saw this somewhat crazy girl running after him, screaming at the top of her voice to “STOP”, he did. A little out of breath I told him to hand over the peanuts or I would call the police. He looked so pitiful. I felt sorry for him as I knew I scared him half to death. He didn’t deny what he had done and unzipped his coat and gave me the jar of peanuts.

“Don’t call the police,” he begged. I told him that I wouldn’t, but I made him promise that he would never steal anything again. Off he went and I took the jar of peanuts and carefully put them back on the shelf. Once I composed myself I thought, “I handled that quite well.”

Years later a young man approached me and asked, “Do you remember me? I was the boy you caught stealing a jar of peanuts.” Then it all came back to me. He continued, “I always wanted to thank you. You see, up to that time I had taken quite a few items from different stores but was never caught. When you actually caught me stealing and made me promise I would never steal again, I believe you saved me from a life of crime. It meant a lot to me to know that you had the courage to run after me. You really did scare me! I’ll never forget it.”

We laughed at remembering this moment in time when stealing a jar of peanuts and being caught meant so much to a young man. It also meant a lot to me to know that I may have helped a young man turn from a possible life of crime.

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