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Police Intervention Leads Teen to 34 Years as Volunteer

For well over three decades, Patrick Vacarella has been a fixture at a local Christmas tree lot, helping local families get into the holiday spirit. He says, “It’s kind of fun to see everybody every year, and they remember you from year to year because you’ve been there for so long.”

The lot is run by the Mountain Scouts Tree Sale Association, and serves as a fundraiser for several local Boy Scout troops. Ironically, the inciting incident that launched Vacarella into his annual tradition of service was not exactly Boy Scout behavior.

Back in 1987, Vacarella was a headstrong teenager who loved to show off his 1979 Pontiac Trans Am. So he made a habit of pulling up to stop signs and burning his tires’ rubber on the asphalt, leaving a trail of smoke in his wake. As he’d done many times before, Vacarella approached the intersection on Highway 31 next to the Christmas tree lot, where there were sure to be plenty of onlookers.

However, Bo Young, who ran the lot at the time, wanted to teach Vacarella a lesson. So he’d previously called police, who were waiting just around the corner. Immediately after his big burnout, police appeared and pulled the teen over. They gave him two choices – either pay a hefty fine for a traffic ticket, or instead, volunteer at the Christmas tree lot for a few weeks. He chose the second option.

But it wasn’t long before what seemed like a punishment became a privilege. He quickly became friends with Young’s two sons Matt and Paul, and together they helped families pick out trees and tie them onto their cars. Vacarella enjoyed it so much, he agreed to do it again the following year, and then the year after.

Vacarella says, “It got to a point where it was fun. It seems like every year I was up there, I got to do something else until it evolved into me being lot manager. Sometimes, I ask myself, due to how long I’ve been in this, if I just shouldn’t have paid the ticket and went on.”

But his answer is obvious. “You see the same people every year, and they’re like, ‘Well, I knew you would be here when I came; good to see you again.’”

Possible Preaching Angle:

God often uses the repercussions of our misbehavior to invite us into newer, healthier ways of living. In God's kingdom, discipline is less punishment and more an invitation into wholeness.

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