A 6th graders learns some lessons while home alone

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Daniel Smith
  • 75th Medical Group Chief, Aerospace Medicine
Easter vacation had now begun, a good report card was in hand, and my mind was full of multiple ideas of how I would use a forthcoming week of freedom. Mom had told me she would be off doing some errands and that I was to come straight home. I would be alone and in charge of the house for a couple of hours. I was looking forward to the moments of eating whatever I wanted out of the fridge, playing Atari or watching "The Three Stooges" or "Little Rascals." Life could not be better for this 6th grade boy.

I found the key to my house, threw open the door and made my usual after-school pit stop when sheer terror gripped my heart. I heard rapid footsteps run across my living room floor, the front door open and slam shut. Wait a minute! I'm supposed to be home alone. My heart rate sped up and a knot formed in my throat. I quietly opened the bathroom door and began tiptoeing down the hall when I heard the closet door in my parent's bedroom creek open and the phone start to dial (no push button phones back then). The terror in my chest seemed to spread throughout my entire body as I slipped out the backdoor and careened over a four foot ledge into a neighbor's driveway (adrenaline was running rampant), choking back sobs with tears streaming down my face.

The fear and uncertainty that a robber had invaded my home encompassed me and forced me into a dilemma. I was too scared to knock on a neighbor's door to call the police, and too scared to return home to get a closer look at the situation. After some intense silent prayers and what seemed like an eternity (about 5 minutes) of fighting with my decision, a motorcycle policeman came sauntering up my street. I hurriedly waved him down and told him my plight. He called for backup, walked down my driveway, pulled the gun out of his holster and turned the corner.

Several police cars showed up, a couple of motorcycle police and the entire inquisitive neighborhood were soon center stage to the Smith family drama. My pulse was still in hyperdrive when the front door of my house opened ... and ... my older brother was escorted out of the house in hand cuffs.

I wasn't sure if I wanted to shout out with joy or climb underneath one of the police cars. The huge wash of relief quickly turned into a new fear ... my brother is going to kill me. The neighbors had a good laugh, the police said, "No harm, no foul," and said to my brother, "Hope you don't mind my aging your life 20 years." And I melted into a heap between instant heartburn and the hidden joy that my older brother finally got a little of his own medicine as he notoriously loved to scare me any way he could. (He still denies that he was trying to scare me to this day and says that you should hear his side of the story.)

He must have felt a small twinge of guilt however, as he ended up buying me some pizza that night. I don't remember him trying to scare me ever again. In fact, he was often very kind to me. This is the same brother who was left for dead during an entire night in the streets of Argentina after a hit-and-run accident while serving as a missionary. This is the same brother who 24 years later met me at home and grabbed me after one of my deployments to Kandajar in the early years of Operation Enduring Freedom. He wouldn't let go, and this time he was the one sobbing.

I'll let you decipher the take-home lessons of this tale as they apply to you. Perspective, acting on erroneous conclusions, answers to prayer, the fear to make a decision, communication breakdown, failure to verify, etc. During this holiday season, amidst battling mace-wielding Black Friday shoppers, hurricane-level winds tearing down your fences, inspections, exercises, increasing debt and the day-to-day fight to survive, I hope you take some time to step back from it all and bask in the joys of your life. Learn to forgive. Learn to say, "I'm sorry." Cherish your loved ones. Oh yeah, and don't scare your little brothers.