Blue summer skies. Perfect temperature. What a great day to ride my bike, shoot some hoops or maybe even chase the dog around the yard.
I would do all those things later. Right now, I had bigger things on my mind – Boyd Cleaners and Pac-Man. I opened the garage door, grabbed my bike and sped off down the alley.
One minute later I arrived at the side door of the cleaners near the drive-thru pickup. I opened the door and headed to the change machine to convert my dollar bill into usable coinage. When I turned around, I was met with the site of something that would change my life to this day.
Sitting next to my beloved Pac-Man was a new video game – Kangaroo.
I didn’t pay much attention to it at first as I plunked my first quarter into Pac-Man. I had become decent at Pac-Man, but as I remember I had a terrible first two games. Frustrated, I thought I would try out the new game with the boxing kangaroo.
It was definitely a “B List” game, one you wouldn’t normally waste your money on. However, there was something intriguing about climbing and jumping through each level, Donkey Kong style, all the while fighting pink monkeys. I was fascinated. Worse, I was getting hooked. After my last game ended, I rode my bike home, plotting how and when I would return.
The next day, I went to my closet and took out several dollars. I told my mom I was going for a bike ride across town but instead set off down the alley once again. One warm-up game on Pac-Man just to keep me sharp and then it was on to Kangaroo. Twenty minutes later I was out of money. Undeterred, I raced back home to grab some more.
My mom was in the kitchen when I entered the back door. She was surprised I had returned so quickly from my cross-town bike ride. I told her that I had left my watch in my room and wanted to make sure I didn’t lose track of time. She bought it of course. Why wouldn’t she; I had not developed a habit of lying. Up to my room…more money from my closet…back down to Boyd Cleaners for round #2.
I had figured out the basics of this Kangaroo game by now and my score was beginning to increase as I made my way through the levels. But once again my money ran out. Could I chance another return home?
“Hey mom, I just need to use the bathroom,” I lied as I came in the house. I faked using the bathroom, then went up to my room and grabbed the rest of my money. Down to Boyd Cleaners for round #3. (I think when I came in for the third time, I got a weird look from the store owner.)
That last round of Kangaroo playing was awesome. I was killing it! Jumping, boxing, climbing…I could not be stopped. I have no idea how long I played – time seemed to stand still. After the last coins finally ran out, I left feeling exuberant, having had a lot of fun. But I really had nothing to show for the fact that I had just spent all my hard earned paper route money playing a video game. Well, nothing except a sore wrist.
The very next day, one of my best friends called and wanted me to go play basketball at our local YMCA. He was a member and could bring a guest. All I needed was one dollar to get in. Usually this would not be a problem but because of my escapades the day before I was broke. Not realizing the trap I was about to set on myself, I asked my mom for some money.
“Where is all your money from your paper route?” she asked.
I spent the next ten minutes confessing my sins of the previous day. I spent the rest of the afternoon in my room, dreading the return of my father from work. When he heard about this, I would be doomed.
I knew some painful punishment was coming that night. I had told so many lies. But as my parents came into my room before dinner they were not carrying the punishment instrument I expected. Rather they had a pencil and some paper. Their message went something like this:
“We are not pleased that you lied to us. But we are really unhappy you wasted all your hard earned money. Please write an essay on why we should be disciplined and responsible with money. Be sure to include what you believe God thinks about this. Have your essay done before bed.”
I have no memory of what I wrote in that essay. What I learned though, being disciplined in this way by my parents, was that:
A. Money is serious business. It’s not a trivial part of life we can ignore.
B. Planning for the future is important. Because of my foolishness, I missed out on a more satisfying afternoon with my friend.
C. Hard work cannot be wasted. Weeks of paper route tossing had just gone up in smoke.
D. God has expectations too. I had not been a good steward of what He had blessed me with.
I never did something like that again. And the lessons continue with me to this day.
What was the silliest thing you wasted money on as a kid? Ever lie to your parents about spending money?