It should have been easy.
My mom called the pizza shop, ordered, and was told the pie could be picked up in 20 minutes. She handed me a twenty, and asked me and my friend, who was over for the day, to walk down to the pizza shop and pick up what would be lunch for her, me, my friend, and my cousin.
We didn't have much money in those days so ordering pizza was a real treat. As my friend and I walked to the pizza shop I was salivating at the thought of biting into the pepperoni pie. The pizza shop was on the other side of the streetcar tracks and Willow Avenue. We walked in, and giving the clerk my last name, I proudly stated I was there to pick up a pizza. I handed him the twenty, and he handed me the pizza and my change.
We walked out of the pizza shop and as we crossed Willow Avenue we were continuing the conversation we had been engaged in on our way which although I don't remember the exact details of, most likely had to do with Transformers, GI Joe, or Star Wars. After we crossed Willow we had to cross the streetcar tracks.
And then it happened . . .
My friend was in front of me as we walked. Right before we crossed the streetcar tracks, I looked backwards for some reason. I don't really remember why. Maybe I heard a loud car or something and looked to see if it was a muscle car. Whatever the reason, because I looked back I didn't see the streetcar coming. I also didn't see my friend stop right in front of me. He stopped of course to allow the streetcar to pass before we crossed the tracks. Unfortunately, since I didn't see him stop, I ran into him which caused me to drop the pizza. As it fell from my hands the box came open, and the pizza slid out of the box and landed on the ground. It fell onto a patch of broken asphalt which had gravel, and dirt spread over it.
My friend and I just looked at the pizza. The pizza we had been looking forward to eating. The pizza that was going to such a treat for us to have. Just then a police officer walked by and said, "You guys better clean that up."
Looking back, I suppose we could have gathered the pizza up and went back to the store. The owner might have had mercy on us and given us another pie. If not the owner, another customer may have felt bad and bought us another pie. Neither of those things could have happened, but we could have at least tried. We could have walked home and told my mom what had happened. She would have been upset, but she was a loving and patient woman and she would have forgiven us after initially being upset. We may have had to endure getting yelled at, but we would have survived.
What we chose to do instead was gather the pizza up, put it back in the box, fix it up as best we could, take it home, and try and pass it off as a normal pepperoni pizza. So, we got it in the box, tried to organize the cheese and pepperoni as it had originally looked, and wipe the dirt and gravel off it. Satisfied, we had done as good a job as possible, we walked back to my house.
My cousin, who was two years younger than my friend and my ten years let out a yelp of excitement when we walked in the door. She cried, "pizza!" and ran to sit at the table. Her and my mother had the table set, and my mother had produced some Coca-Cola (another treat in those days) for us to have with the pizza. My mom seemed happy to have been able to treat us with pizza and coke when my friend was over.
I set the pizza on the table and then we all sat down. My friend, and I held our breath as my mother opened the box and looked at the pizza. She cut it up and served everyone. "We did it!", I thought. We had pulled it off. My mother had not noticed that there was anything wrong with the pizza. I briefly thought that perhaps one day I would be a famous pizza maker since I obviously had skills in that area based on my reconstruction of the pie we had dropped. My friend and I shared a covert smile. We prepared to enjoy our pizza and Coke and then play outside the rest of the afternoon.
We had forgotten about the dirt and gravel.
Dirt, and gravel can be small. Anyone that has ever done laundry, or swept and mopped a floor knows this. Just when you think you've gotten it all off the floor you find more of it. Well my friend and I had thought we had gotten all the dirt and gravel. As I chewed my pizza I could feel small bits of dirt. I just kept on chewing and hoped my mother wouldn't notice as she ate her pizza. I realized this wasn't going to happen when my cousin exclaimed to my mother, "Aunt Patty there is a rock in my pizza!"
My mom replied that she could taste something weird in her pizza as too. She looked at my cousin's slice and saw more dirt and some small pieces of gravel. She looked at me and asked me, "Wayne, what happened to the pizza?"
Decision time. I could have come clean at that moment. Like I said earlier, my mom was pretty understanding. However, I chose to double down on my attempted deception. I replied that I had no idea what had happened and the pizza must have come that way. I suggested she call the pizza shop and find out what happened.
Now my mother was patient and understanding, but she wasn't a fool. With some questioning, she broke down my story quickly. I admitted what had happened, but not before making sure to mention my friend had stopped short in front of me and in my opinion, had caused me to drop the pizza. My mom was mad, but I don't remember her yelling much. She made us some sandwiches and we had lunch. I knew she was disappointed in me. Mostly about my lack of honesty, my excuse making, and my blaming my friend.
For years, I've told that story to get a laugh, and most people do laugh because it is a funny story. It was a learning experience as well, although I didn't realize it at the time. However, when I seriously think about it several things are prominent:
1. My first instinct was to lie, and deceive.
2. I was willing to throw my friend "under the bus" as some say to mitigate whatever my punishment might be.
3. Before my cousin bit into a piece of gravel, I was proud that I had been able to get away with my deception.
Lying, betrayal, and pride are all sinful according to the Bible. No one had ever taught me to do these things. In fact, since I had grown up in church, my experience had been quite the opposite. Yet, when my back was against the wall did I trust in the ways of God as outlined in the Bible? No, instead, I embraced sin.
The reason I embraced sin is simple. I embraced sin because I am a sinner by nature. My nature is totally depraved, and corrupted. My nature chooses to do the opposite of what God says to do. In theological circles, this idea is known as the Doctrine of Total Depravity.
While often misunderstood, the doctrine of total depravity is an acknowledgement that the Bible teaches that as a result of the fall of man (Genesis 3:6) every part of man—his mind, will, emotions and flesh—have been corrupted by sin. In other words, sin affects all areas of our being including who we are and what we do. It penetrates to the very core of our being so that everything is tainted by sin and “…all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6). It acknowledges that the Bible teaches that we sin because we are sinners by nature. Or, as Jesus says, “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.” (Matthew 7:17-18).
Sometimes I'll be talking theology with someone, and they'll tell me they don't believe in the Doctrine of Total Depravity. My response is to tell them the story of Wayne and the Gravel Pizza which usually causes them to think about their opinion on the matter.
For more on Total Depravity: