Overall, I was a good kid. Nevertheless, at 11 years old, I floundered. I'd transferred to a small Catholic school and wanted to be accepted, so I began hanging out with some girls who liked to steal. We snatched things that kids in the '70s held in high esteem: Bic 4-color pens, blue and green sparkly eye shadow, and money.

One day, the four of us watched as the seventh-graders left for chapel to confess their sins, leaving all of their belongings lined up along the stairway. Stealthily, we began rummaging through this treasure trove. Digging through one bag, I found a wallet with a dollar inside, as well as the owner's name: Sweet Maria -- I really liked her. I hesitated briefly, but then squeezed the dollar tightly into my hand.

The thrill didn't last long. Within a few hours, the theft had been reported, and the principal demanded the dollar's return. Suddenly, I was being escorted to the office, my "friends" having turned me in. The principal asked me why I took the money. I told her I didn't know. Amazingly, in a school where forgetting one's gym shoes warranted detention, she let me go.

Whenever the phone rang, I was certain I was about to pay a price. No one ever called.

I still see Maria and her family sometimes and am reminded of my youthful crime spree and the day I decided to live honestly.

Sheri Hawes, Clarksville

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