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Holly Whitman

Copyright October 2006 Holly Whitman
No reprints without written permission
A year ago last summer my family decided to explore new areas of Utah.
We had taken several trips there, but never had we gone to the heart of the
state, where the Mormon faith is evident everywhere and the values shared
by Mormons affect every aspect of life, both public and private.

One thing I learned when perusing a Cedar City book store was the meaning of CTR,
which appears in rings, on bookmarks, children’s coin banks, in books and literature, on
necklaces, and just about anywhere else you can imagine. I asked the clerk in the book
store what it meant, and she said,
“Choose the right..   It means whenever you
have a choice about what you should do, always choose the right thing.”

It is so important to the Mormon culture that they find numerous ways
to use it so that people are constantly aware of it. Hmmm…

CTR. Very simple, very right.  It is a principal that speaks to my heart;
I don’t think a person has to be Mormon to embrace and appreciate it.
But sometimes what is right is unclear.

I was driving home recently, after picking up some materials from school
that I needed for  lesson planning over the weekend. As I was approaching my home,
I saw a pickup truck parked at the end of my yard;
a young man was walking out of
my driveway with something in his hand.
 He saw me and dropped his hand out of
sight, slightly behind his back.  Then it registered what I saw. He had picked roses from
my bushes.

As he climbed into his truck, I stopped my car directly across from him,
rolled down my window, and just looked at him. He flushed and looked nervous.  
“Why are you picking roses from my bushes?” I asked grimly.
He looked a little panicked, then said, “I’m sorry. I’ll never do it again.
I knocked on the door and no one was home; I wanted to ask.   It was an emergency.   
I need them for my wife.”  That piqued my curiosity.
I had never heard of an emergency requiring stolen roses.  
“They sell flowers at the Safeway,”  I said, still looking grim.
“I can’t afford them,” he said, looking sad. “Really,” I replied. “So, you just take them from
me?”  “I am so sorry,” he said. “I’ll never do it again.
Look, I’ll give them back.”  I just stared at him. “What’s your name?”
“Manny *,” he said. “Where do you live?”  “Right here, in town.”
By now the guy was sweating bullets.  I continued to stare at him for a moment.   
What to do? I could call the police, make a scene,
really stir up trouble for him. After all, he stole those flowers right out of my yard!  
I wanted to make the right choice.  He looked so sorry. He could have been  self-
righteous or belligerent; he could have  ignored me and raced off in his truck.  
But this guy looked pathetic.  Again,
that Mormon concept of  Choose The Right
came to me.
 You could make a good case for busting him,  or helping him. I made up
my mind.  “Manny,” I said, “follow me.  I’ve got something to give to you.”
He looked surprised, wary, but he did it.  I parked in my driveway.
I gestured toward a wicker chair on my porch.  “Sit there, I’ll be out in a moment.” He sat. I
came outside with a squat, clear glass vase
filled with water and some kitchen shears.  “Go get the roses out of your truck,” I said.   
Looking puzzled, he did as I asked.   We squatted on the walkway and I trimmed the
flowers and put them in the vase.
“We need more,” I said.   “I’ll clean up these leaves,” he said, nervously.
He gathered up the cuttings and put them into my dumpster and I went to cut more
flowers.   As I trimmed the new flowers, I explained to him
that these roses, unlike those from a florist,  had a very strong, beautiful smell, and invited
him to see for himself. He agreed they were wonderful.
“Do you like flower scents?” he asked shyly.  “Yes, I do.”
“Well, my wife used to sell wonderful candles;  I’ll bring you one. They are the best
smelling, best burning candles!”   “Okay,” I said, not believing him, but enjoying the
moment.   He seemed so much more relaxed.
This was starting to be fun.   He told me that he was thirty years old, with small children.   
He said that he felt so bad about the conflict he had with his wife and he hoped    that this
would help him make up with her.
When we finished up with the flowers, I handed them to him. “
After the flowers wilt and you are finished with the vase, just bring it back and leave it on
my porch.Now, go sit down again,” I said, pointing to a white wicker chair on my porch.   “I
have something else for you to take.”
I came back outside with a paper bag and filled it with the small white
peaches growing abundantly on the tree in our front yard,
then brought it to him.
“Stay there, I’m not finished,” I said, and went back into the house.
I printed out a thank you card for him; as I did that, I found a nice, new bottle of perfume
that I did not want, put it into a sheer pink drawstring bag,
and took both out to him, with a clipboard and a pen.   He looked up, surprised. “Thank
you so much,” he said with feeling. “I’m going to bring you two candles.”   I laughed.   
“Now, you can write a thank-you card for your wife, telling her thanks for all she does and
that you’re sorry. And give her this perfume. She’ll love it.   I have to get one more thing,” I
said, then disappeared one last time into the house.   I found a nice gift bag and white
tissue and brought them outside, putting the perfume inside
the bag. “It’s not the best thing for this occasion,” I said, indicating the bag, “but she’ll like
it anyway, and it’s nice.”   He thanked me profusely and handed back the pen and
clipboard. He slipped the card into the envelope and carefully tucked it into the bag with
the perfume. He shook hands with me.   “I’m Manny Garcia*,” he said, smiling broadly.
“Thank you so much for all of this. I will never forget it.”   
“Thank YOU,” I said.   
“I’ll never forget it, either. It was truly a gift.”

He walked away with a bounce to his step, hope in his face, and peace in
his eyes.   I reflected on the various scenarios that could have played out,
grateful that I chose the one that left me feeling great the rest of the day.

I know, without a doubt, that I did choose the right.


When I originally wrote this, I had no clue what the outcome
would be, but I didn’t care. I was filled with such a special feeling
the rest of that week that it did not matter to me whether he
brought the vase or the candles.
Several weeks passed.   One evening I opened my front door
to take my dog for a walk.   There, right next to the door, was
my vase, two small jar candles, and a small box of tea lights.   I
took them in and sniffed each one;   ah, they were heavenly!   
There was no note, but the message was very clear   to me.
Once more, I got to feel that special elation.  
And I can’t wait for that next opportunity to   choose the right.

*name changed
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