JT walked all that day, spent the night in the forest and came upon another town by the coast. It was getting pretty lonely walking here and there all by himself. He thought it would be nice to have a friend. He could not remember the last time he had fun with friends.
As soon as he thought this, a group of boys came running past him chasing a dog. In the dog’s mouth was a string of sausages. Six boys were running for all they were worth, but they were no match for the mongrel dog they were chasing. He easily outran them, and in the distance, the dog disappeared around the corner. The boys stopped running and leaned over with their hands on their knees trying to catch their breath.
The group of boys slowly walked their way back up the road to where JT was standing.
“Hey you new in town?” a boy of about JT’s age asked JT. JT nodded, “just got here.”
“We were just about to go fishing. Do you want to come with us?” He asked, JT nodded yes and followed the boys down the road and towards the city wharf. As they passed by a open fruit stall, all of the boys took apples without paying, stuffed quite a few down JTs clothes and ran away quickly. JT just stood there watching them as the fruit vendor came up behind JT and grabbed him by the collar.
“You with those boys?” The angry man asked him accusingly.
“I just met them, but yes we were going to go fishing together.” JT replied truthfully.
“Then you are with them, well that means you owe me for todays’ apples, and yesterdays’ apples and all the apples they have taken over the last 2 months!?” He scowled at JT, ‘Can you pay? They must have taken a bushel by now.”
JT shook his head, “I don’t have much money, not enough for a whole bushel of apples, that is for sure.”
He pulled JT by the collar with one hand, and by the arm with the other, “Then we are off to see the sheriff and see what he has to say.” He pulled him down one street and up another, and soon they were in front of the sheriffs’ office. He let go of JTs arm and pounded on the sheriff’s door.
“Come in,” came the gruff reply from inside the office. The fruit vendor flung the door open and pulled JT into the office. It was not very large, it had a desk, one cell with stout wooden bars enclosing a small bed. The cell did not seem to be occupied, for now.
“What do we have here,” said friendly looking man sitting at a desk. He waved them over to two sturdy chairs in front of the desk.
“Here is a boy from that bunch of hooligans, who have been stealing my apples for the last two months. I couldn’t catch the rest of them, but this one just stood there with a shirt full of apples.” The fruit vendor stood there impatiently.
“What do you have to say for yourself son?” the sheriff asked.
“I did not take anything,” JT replied.
“But you were with them, weren’t you?” the fruit vendor retorted.
JT nodded, “I followed them.”
The sheriff asked, “ I haven’t seen you around. Are you new here?”
JT nodded, “just got here today.”
“How did you meet those boys?” The sheriff asked. He had a face that JT knew he could trust. This man only wanted the truth, and JT tried to always only tell the truth.
“I saw them chasing a dog with a mouthful of sausages. The dog outran them and they saw me watching them and invited me to go fishing. “ He burst out with, then added, “I’ve been alone for a long time and I thought it would be so nice to have friends. They looked friendly, so I was going to go fishing with them.”
The sheriff leaned forward in his chair, “I believe you son, however it doesn’t excuse the fact that you were with them when they committed a crime.” He looked at him very sternly, then leaned back and broke into a smile, “Since this is your first time in here, and hopefully the last. I am going to sentence you to completely cleaning this office, inside and out, and then painting the whole thing. Then you can go. While you are doing this, I want you to think about your companions. Whoever you are with reflects on you. If you hang out with robbers, you will be a robber. If you hang out with good people, then that too will be what is thought of you.”
JT worked all that week and part of the next, before he was finally done with the task. It was nice, that the sheriff brought him home and his wife fed him. At the end of his sentence, he was sent on his way with a fine lunch.
On his way out of town, JT ran into the group of boys again, and the leader ran up to him, “sorry we ran out on you, but you didn’t have enough sense to run too, serves you right.”
JT was shocked that he was thought stupid just because he would not steal. “It is wrong to steal. It is also wrong not to be loyal. I paid for your crime of stealing apples.”
The boy looked at him incredulously, “You are a sucker!” Then the whole troop of boys ran down the street yelling, “sucker, sucker, sucker…..sucker, sucker, sucker…” The sound gradually diminished to nothing.
JT shook his head and left town, glad that he had learned this lesson so early in life.
QOTD: What scripture does this story illustrate? Do your companions’ character affect yours?
To read the introduction to this story series please click HERE