Running a close second to "Don't talk to strangers," "Don't take candy from strangers" has to be among the most fundamental pieces of advice parents give children regarding their interactions with the general public.
So, I was thinking about that wise counsel one morning at five-years-old on the playground of Hancock Park Elementary School. My gaze through the chain link fence at the passing traffic had been interrupted by the approach of an old man wearing a trench coat and a fedora.
He offered me a piece of wrapped candy. It shone in the sun. I hesitated, thinking of my parents' warnings but, giving in, I reached out my hand. As he passed the candy through the chain link, my fingers were moments from possession.
Pouncing seemingly from nowhere, my kindergarten teacher swatted the candy away. She launched into a verbal assault on the old man, driving him back from the fence, saving me, perhaps, from an early demise.
Feeling ashamed, I came out of my sugar-addictive stupor, because after all I really did know better. I think my teacher thought so too, as she never told my parents. And neither did I.
Driving by that fence the other evening, I noticed there are now green slats tightly woven through each of the chain links, in response, no doubt, to my experience of that day long ago.
Looking back at some of the things my friends and I did in our youth, I am amazed that we actually made it to adulthood. And equally amazing is how much parents and teachers really do know after all.