I can’t recall the purpose of the fundraiser, but I remember that we got entered into a drawing for selling candy bars my 7th grade year in junior high. The candy bars came in three varieties: almond, caramel, and milk chocolate. If you left one in your pocket for a minute or so, it would be soft to the touch and melt in your mouth. Each candy bar contained a dollar-off coupon to a local pizza place on the wrapper, which was a selling point that I would employ.
I remember being excited after school to begin selling the box of 40 chocolate candy bars as I tightly wrapped the neon laces around my rollerblades. In only a few days, I covered a lot of ground and sold the entire box by going door-to-door.
I proudly turned in the lighter box that now rattled with lose change and dollar bills. The finance lady in the office at school congratulated me cheerfully and said, “You sold those quick! You should definitely check out another box.”
I smiled in shock until I came up with some excuse, but the lady wasn’t having it. She responded, “Nonsense, I want a good boy like you to have a better chance at winning the drawing; here’s another box.”
Still terribly shy at that age, I apprehensively took it and made my way home after school.
I walked through my front door. My mom saw me instantly and asked, “Another box?”
Passionless now, I procrastinated a few days before I would skate out to make the rounds again.
Eventually, I got the energy after school one day to tightly pull the laces of my rollerblades again and make my way outside to start the door-to-door routine.
The first house said, “No, thank you.”
The second house did the same.
The third house said, “Sorry, but we already bought some candy bars three different times from other kids at your school. We’re done.”
I skated on, but only got the same answers. No one was buying anymore, and I had 36 candy bars left to sell; my family had eaten a few.
Failing my arduous mission, I slowly skated home.
A few days went by, and my mom asked when the money was due for the second box of candy bars.
I informed her that it was due on Friday, and it was already Thursday.
I overheard her talking with my dad about how if I don’t learn to be responsible now, I’ll grow up to be a bum. With my dad backing her up, my mom told me to go out and sell the remaining candy bars and to not come back until I was done or it was night.
I tightened up my rollerblades again and headed back out to the streets of agony, but I tried to stay positive.
I hoped maybe this time I would get lucky. Maybe people would be ready for another candy bar. Maybe payday came, and they now had money to spare. Maybe they would just happen to have a random sugar craving the moment I rang the doorbell.
They were annoyed for being disturbed once again by another kid selling candy bars.
I was annoying people, and I hated it. I hated seeing their eyes roll back into their heads. I hated them quickly barking out “Not interested!” I hated them complaining to me about already being bothered multiple times by kids like me.
I now skated around aimlessly with that heavy, cardboard box of 36 candy bars in the springtime heat. I had no idea where to go, until I came up with the grand prize of all ideas—Nanny and Papa’s!
I turned around to start skating to Nanny and Papa’s house, which was not too far from my house. They would at least listen to my dilemma and give me some type of advice or guidance.
I rang their doorbell, and Papa answered, “Terry!” he turned to my grandma sitting on the couch, “That boy’s here!”
Yes, I was “that boy” to my grandparents because I was their only boy.
I took off my heavy rollerblades and sat on their couch to begin explaining my dilemma. Nanny responded after listening to my dramatic situation, “Let me see those candies.”
I opened the box and showed her them.
Nanny said to Papa, “Honey, aren’t those my favorite candies?”
Papa answered, “Oh, I think they are.”
“Hand me my bolsa, Papa.” She liked to throw in random Spanish words every now and then since my Papa came from Mexico. She then asked me, “You said they were only a dollar each?”
“Yes, a dollar each.” It was looking like my nanny and papa were going to buy a candy bar, and at this point, anything helped.
“How many do you have left?” Nanny asked,
“I have 36 left.”
“That’s it? Well, I guess I’ll have to buy you out then.”
I skated back to my parents’ house as a victor. I walked in through the front door as my mom quickly asked from the couch with my dad watching, “Did you sell them all?” I could tell she was concerned that I was home so quickly.
“All of them?” she asked sternly.
“Yup, all of them. I sold them all.”
She sat back on the couch figuring me out: “You went to Nanny’s house, didn’t you?”
“Maybe,” I smiled walking to my room.
Years later, I remember talking to my Nanny about that day, and she recalled the pleasant story laughing, “Oh, I remember that day, and I hated those candies.”
I didn’t win my school’s fundraiser drawing, but my nanny and papa taught me a little more about grace that day. I took that second box of chocolate and owed a debt that I couldn’t pay. I tried to get out of debt by annoying neighbor after neighbor, but when I went to the right place, the right person, it was paid in full.
I try to remind myself of this grace when people in my life make choices that get them in debt—in trouble. I try to remember this grace when I have to pay their debt to help them.
If you want to be a leader and an effective minister of reconciliation in this world, there are going to be times when you need to help pay another person’s debt, even if it is completely their fault.
It might be something very serious, or something as silly as buying 36 chocolate candy bars from a kid, but no matter what, prepare yourself to show grace when the Holy Spirit directs you to pay another’s debt.