About one year ago my parents ruined my life. Well, I thought they did. See, I’d lived my whole life in a small farming town in Idaho (yes, all the farmers grew potatoes). Then my dad got a job transfer to Fort Wayne, Indiana, a place I’d never even heard of. And it’s not that the city is so bad (it’s actually a pretty nice place), but I had to make new friends. That was the hard part.
I had known the kids in my old neighborhood my whole life. We played baseball together, and we went to school and church together. Having friends there was easy.
So one day I was standing out on the soccer field with a group of kids I was just getting to know, and they were dividing into teams when I heard one of them use the Lord’s name in a bad way. I just shook my head.
I couldn’t help it; I don’t talk that way. In fact, I made a promise with myself during a prayer a year ago that I wouldn’t swear, and that I wouldn’t ever misuse the Lord’s name.
Well, the kid saw that I didn’t like the swearing, and he asked, “What’s your problem?”
“Nothing,” I said.
“What are you upset about then?” He stood up and walked over to me.
“I just don’t swear. That includes God’s name. That’s all.” I shrugged like it was no big deal.
“Everybody says that; it’s not even swearing,” some other kid said.
“Yeah,” still another kid said. “Come on, say it! I dare you.”
“I double dare you!” someone else shouted.
“Chicken!” I heard the taunt from behind me.
Everyone stopped and looked at me. Here I was, the new kid surrounded by those
I hoped would be my new friends.
“No,” I said. “I won’t.”
Then Jason, this really tough kid, who is the one who had the soccer ball in the first place, reached into his pocket.
He pulled out a crumpled up $10 bill. He held it up and said, “Hey, if you say it, I’ll give you this.”
Well, the kids around me were hooting with laughter and egging me on, and I knew they’d think I was pretty stupid to pass up 10 easy bucks just for swearing.
I took a deep breath. I knew they weren’t the only ones watching me; I knew that God could see me too, and I had to keep my promise.
“Not gonna happen,” I told him. “Keep your money.”
I turned and left. I went home. By myself.
So much for new friends in Indiana.
The next day after school, I got off the bus and started walking home. Someone called my name. I turned around.
It was Jason.
“We’re playing soccer at 4:00 if you want to come.”
I ran all the way home to get my cleats.
* * *
Six months later things are pretty cool. These kids hardly ever use that phrase around me anymore. If someone does, they apologize.
My life hasn’t been ruined after all, and I kept my promise. That’s a lot better than $10.
Illustrated by Brandon Reese