What I Learned from Leave it to Beaver

“Hey, Wally,” Beaver Cleaver would ask his brother, “Is it okay to loan a bicycle that doesn’t belong to you?”

“Heck, no, Beav,” his other brother would say.  “If it’s that neighbor kid Eddy Haskell, you’ll never see it again.”

I loved “Leave it to Beaver,” the TV series about the tousle-headed kid and his story-book family.  Whatever bad happened, they solved it in a half-hour.  “Now Beaver, what did you learn?” his father Ward would ask when they found the missing bike.

“Gee Dad, honesty is the best policy,” Beaver would say.

When I was a kid, I loved that show, its innocence, simplicity and moral values.  It’s funny how now, 50 years later, that moral keeps popping up.

I was reminded of it the other day when I loaned a bicycle to a neighbor kid to run errands.  Actually, he’s not a kid– he’s nearly 40 and unemployed.  How common is that?

He said he needed the bike to run errands.  And unless it’s “Bike to Work Day,” that’s not a good sign either.  Still, as I watched him ride off, I began to think I had seen the last of him and a shiny new Schwinn, property of my family.  I was right—no “kid,” no bike.  Two days later, I was sure I would never see it again.

If my 14-year-old granddaughter Alyssa were here, she would have helped.  She once offered to right a wrong by saying, “I know some people who can ‘take care of him.’”  And I am sure she did.

Honesty and credibility are two qualities that define us as human beings.  Yet easily both are compromised.  In grade school, I learned that the hard way.

The teacher assigned a big term paper.  I did what lots of kids do, waited until the last minute and then found an encyclopedia to copy word for word.  When I flunked the paper, I rationalized.  Sure the ideas came from somebody else but the penmanship was mine alone.  But my mother, bless her heart, would not listen.  She said I had been dishonest with my teacher as well as myself.  I never did it again.

Instead, I made my own way with original ideas.  My favorite was a map of the dark side of the moon.  I won a junior high science fair with that.  A kid asked me, “Why did you make a map of the dark side?  No one has made it before.”

“That’s why,” I replied.   Even as a youngster I knew that originality was everything.  I’ve never won an Emmy.  But then, I’ve never copied someone else’s work.  I sleep well at night.

That is the very reason I knew I had to get that bike back.  It was the moral thing to do.  How could I champion the value of honesty and private property unless I would pay the price to protect it?

So to find the bike, I harnessed my years of investigative experience.   I knew my way around the underworld.  I even owned a Tommy Gun once but somebody borrowed it and didn’t return it.

I called the mother of the kid who borrowed the bicycle.  “That bad boy!  I told him to behave,” she said.

Long story short, I traced the bike to a second-hand shop and bought it back.  My credibility is intact.  And the bike thief has been punished.  His mother told him to go away.

I love it when justice works.

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