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Can You Be Trusted?

“Tommy,” Mother called, “have you finished cleaning your room?”

“Yes, Mother.” Tommy pushed some more toys under the bed. He picked up another book and pushed it in the drawer where his socks were. He looked around. Oh, there was some dirt on the floor in front of the closet! He pushed it under the rug. If Mother had seen that, she wouldn’t let him go to Jerry’s house to play.

“Are you ready for me to inspect?” Mother called again.

But just then the phone rang. So Tommy went downstairs.

“Just a minute,” Mother said into the phone. She looked at Tommy hard. “Are you sure that your room is all cleaned up?”

Tommy nodded very hard, trying to show Mommy a happy face: the face of a good boy. “Can I go to Jerry’s now?” he asked. “I’ve cleaned my room.” When Tommy said this, he felt very bad inside. He knew it wasn’t really so. It looks better, he thought to himself. But if I just say that it looks better, Mother won’t let me go. So he said, “Mother, I did a good job.” He felt even worse.

Mother didn’t look as if she believed Tommy. But she let him go while she talked on the phone.

When Tommy came back from Jerry’s, Mother called from the family room, “I have a story for us to read.” Mother could read the most interesting stories in the whole world, so Tommy hurried in.

The story was about a boy and his little sister who had to plant a whole field with a big bucket of beans. He would make a hole in the ground, and she would drop in a bean seed. At first, they worked hard, but the field was very big, and the beans in the bucket went down so slowly. Then the boy had an idea. “Let’s drop two beans in each hole,” he told his sister. This went a little faster, but not fast enough. Then they started dropping three and even four beans in every hole. Finally, they dug a big hole by a stump and dumped in all the rest of the bean seeds. When they went to the house, their mother was quite pleased—and surprised—that they were through so quickly.

At this point in the story Mother paused a moment, and Tommy began to feel a little uneasy.

The rest of the story told about how the beans came up. It was the boy’s bigger brother who discovered the places with two, three, and more beans coming up. And who found the great, big bean patch growing by the stump. Tommy listened more and more shamefully as the children’s mother talked with them about telling the truth.

When the story ended, Tommy could not look at his Mother.

She was talking in a low voice full of meaning. “Tommy,” she said, “I want to be able to trust you. When you tell me something, I want to believe that you have told me the truth, just as much as you know it. I want your words to be true.”

“Mother,” Tommy said in a small voice, “I did not really clean my room today.” He felt ashamed now. “I am sorry. I want you to be able to trust me. I want to always tell the truth.”

Tommy felt better as he worked hard to clean his room. As he rolled up the rug to clean underneath, he said over and over to himself: “I want to be a person who can be trusted. I want my words to be true.”