“Foxtails,” Friend, June 2004, 21
Aaron traipsed along the hot, dusty road, pulling his wagon. The only sounds were the rattle of wheels over the lumpy ground and the clinking of coins in his pocket.
“Two dollars and 75 cents,” he thought. “Mrs. Murphy gave me much more than it costs to buy her a bag of flour and a sack of potatoes.”
Needing a rest, he sat in the shade of a wild olive tree on a stack of old fence posts in an empty field. He reached for his small canteen, emptied the last few drops of water into his mouth, and tossed the empty container back into the wagon.
A lizard crawled onto the end of one of the fence posts and stared at him. “It’s hot enough to turn even you belly up in the sun, you know that?” he told the reptile. “I guess that’s why you’re under this tree, like me.”
He pulled the coins from his pocket and eyed them. “Mrs. Murphy said this would be enough to buy what she needs,” he said, “which probably means she doesn’t expect anything back. Of course, she can hardly see enough to know a penny from a dime.”
Aaron squinted at the huge field of tall, dead weeds and twisted olive trees, their leaves almost glowing in the heat. “I’m sure Mrs. Murphy wouldn’t mind if I bought a tall glass of lemonade at the soda fountain. There will be enough money left over. Besides,” he reasoned, “I’ve earned it. It’s a half-mile between her place and town. She’s our neighbor, and I’m helping see to her needs, like Mom and Dad asked. But I have needs, too, like lemonade on a hot summer day. Since my canteen is empty, what choice do I have?”
He stood, and the lizard stiffened. “Even you lizards get thirsty. But all you have to do is find a fat, juicy spider. It doesn’t cost you a penny. But we humans have to pay for a drink when our canteens are empty. It’s just the way of things.”
Aaron stepped back onto the road but stopped short. Through the waves of heat, he saw something that looked like a bad dream—a large dog in the road, barking at him! He hurried off through the field. The dog didn’t chase him, but Aaron soon found himself up against another problem: his socks and pants were covered with foxtails.
When he reached the store, he sat on the curb and pulled the spiky weeds from his clothes. His father had once told him how foxtails are similar to bad habits: “Foxtails dig in and stick to whatever touches them, just as bad choices do. Once they become embedded, they are twice as hard to remove. It’s best to avoid them in the first place by staying on the better path.”
After Aaron cleaned off his clothes, he bought Mrs. Murphy’s food, loaded the flour and potatoes in his wagon, and headed down the street toward the soda fountain for a tall glass of cold lemonade. But his father’s words about wrong choices kept whispering to him.
Aaron stopped in front of the soda fountain and looked at the change in his hand. Then he looked again at the soda fountain. Then back at the leftover money. Then at the dirt road baked by the summer sun.
A half-hour later, Aaron pulled his wagon to a stop in front of Mrs. Murphy’s place. He was even more thirsty than before, having decided not to spend any of Mrs. Murphy’s change. He knew she would never have known the difference, nor perhaps even cared. But he would have known, and Heavenly Father would have known, too. Foxtails were enough of a problem in his socks. He didn’t like the idea of having to remove bad habits as well. That would be much more difficult. If he stayed away from making bad choices, he wouldn’t have to worry about creating bad habits.
He climbed Mrs. Murphy’s steps, carrying the sacks of flour and potatoes. Not only did he feel good as he handed her the change, but Mrs. Murphy gave him something else as well: the biggest and best glass of cold lemonade he had ever tasted.
“I think the Lord expects of His people that they will be absolutely honest in all of their dealings. In all that they do, they will be honest with others and honest with themselves.”
President Gordon B. Hinckley, “Latter-day Counsel: Excerpts from Recent Addresses of President Gordon B. Hinckley,” Ensign, Apr. 1999, 71.