It was very near supper and my instructions were clear: “No watermelon!”

Soon after, when I went out the front door, I discovered watermelon juice punctuated with seeds all over the stone steps. I summoned the young culprit.

“I didn’t do it,” he said flatly.

“You had to have,” I replied, indicating the mess.

“No. Bea did it.”

Now, Beatrice had been with us since before this character was born. At times I felt she was the mother and I the assistant mother. The idea of Beatrice sitting on the front steps eating watermelon and spitting seeds was ludicrous—particularly since she was inside preparing supper.

“Come with me,” I said. “I think we’d better get this settled.” In the bedroom I faced him: “Listen, Bud, God knows exactly what happened. He saw. Now I think we’d best get down on our knees and tell him all about it.”

“Aw, Mom,” came the small voice, stalling. “Him doesn’t know. Him’s just guessing.”

“Well, ‘him’ does know!” I rejoined.

Thinking about this, I had to conclude that we have become a generation of escape artists. Children go wrong—the parents are to blame; students erupt—the school has failed; prisoners riot—the prison system has failed; mass murders increase—society has failed. Then I came across a confession from the Old Episcopal prayer book:

By my fault,

By my own fault,

By my own most grievous fault.

Perhaps we need to face up to the fact that reasons are not excuses. And while a person is not always responsible for what happens to him, each individual is responsible for how he or she reacts to circumstances. We are all ultimately responsible to God.

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