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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 6, 2006

Contrition, candor go a long way

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Columnist

The new year started off badly. On the first day of the year, a baseball came flying through a window at the Says' house in 'Aina Haina, breaking two jalousies.

Not a big tragedy, but over the 30 years the family has lived next to the 'Aina Haina ball field, there have been many stray balls and broken windows and, always, the guilty culprits have scampered away.

"I got up and went to the field to see who it was," Wesley Say said. "I was looking around trying to find somebody to make them pay for my broken glass."

Sometimes people have made restitution for the damage, but only after they were caught.

Years ago, Say put up a large net to try to catch the stray balls that fly from the field before they smashed yet another window. This one somehow bypassed the netting. He has also asked city officials to make the wall around the park higher, but has always been told that there isn't enough money. In the past, some people would practice their golf swings in the park. That was even worse than the baseballs. Golf balls are harder and faster. But someone finally put a stop to that.

As he was surveying the damage, something happened that had never happened before in the 30 years of broken windows.

The kid came back.

"He was kind of coming towards me, riding his bicycle, so I had a feeling that it was him," Say said. "And he had that face. Kind of scared."

The boy, maybe a ninth- or 10th-grader, asked Say if that was his house.

"I said, 'Yeah.' And he said, 'I was the one who broke your glass and I'm sorry.' The boy said he was just playing around with his brother throwing the ball, and when the glass broke, they panicked so they ran home and told their father, and I guess the father told them to come back and apologize and offer to pay."

Say was so touched by the boy's forthright honesty that he forgot about being mad.

"The kids just don't do that," Say said. "Even if the parents tell them to go and explain their story, they won't come back. But he did, and he owned up to his mistake. I told him please be careful and thank you for coming back and telling me."

Then, the next evening, the boy was back at the Say's house.

"He came up to my door and he brought a box of cream puffs from Shirokiya and he again apologized. He said, 'Something for you guys for breaking your glass.' "

"I thought it was something that you just don't see too often nowadays."

No one had ever said they were sorry before.

As it turned out, New Year's at the Say house started out with hopeful signs; with a parent who taught his boy to do the right thing and a kid who found the courage to admit a mistake.

Said Say, "I think that boy will do fine in the future."

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172 or lcataluna@honoluluadvertiser.com.