When I was 9 or 10 years old I stole a bag of licorice from the local grocery store. The clerk had left the checkout to go the back of the store and I grabbed the candy from behind the counter.
She returned and confronted me as I was heading out the door. I insisted I had bought the goods elsewhere and of course, she knew I was lying. She let me go, and while I was off the hook, the guilt I felt wouldn’t allow me to enjoy it.
It was black licorice. I hate black licorice. To this day I can’t eat the stuff and I’m often reminded of that experience.
My over active conscience has more than once created interesting times for me and more importantly, for my children. I would always return too much change, inform the clerk when I wasn’t charged enough and would even take the $20 found on the sidewalk back into the store or gas station and give it to the attendant, in case someone was looking for it.
What happens to it after that, is on someone else’s conscience.
Today, as adults one of the kids will occasionally call and exclaim, “Honest dad just cost me $10. Yeah, I took the money back.”
Recently I went shopping for some dress clothes, buying a pair of pants and an overcoat. The store was busy and a manager opened another checkout to accommodate me and the many others standing in line. She became distracted and I, in a hurry, simply signed the credit card receipt and left. It wasn’t until I reached the car that I realized I had not been charged for the coat.
I knew that the time spent to straighten this out would put me way behind schedule and could even get me accused of shoplifting, but being me I had no choice but to return and pay for the garment.
Afterwards, the customer service manager professed her renewed sense of faith in humanity and I walked out with a clear conscience, and a 15% discount.
Not that I have never been in the wrong mind you, but when confronted I will fess up and fold like an old tent.
Like the time I was in front of an IRS auditor and could only offer; “Well, it sounded like a good idea at the time.”
In today’s world it seems that honesty quickly gives way to greed, power and the need to win at all costs.
When confronted, politicians, sports figures and business leaders alike, will try to cover up, spin and create that infamous tangled web in order to absolve themselves of wrongdoing.
Wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear one say, “I made a mistake, it was my fault and I accept all responsibility for my actions.”
This deceptive attitude presented by our leaders does in fact trickle down to the general public. We tend to have ready made excuses for our own lapses in judgment and bad behavior.
Just ask anyone who is incarcerated and they will loudly proclaim their innocence.
About a month ago, I received a shipment of books that were ordered online. The order was complete-exactly what I requested.
Ten days later I received another shipment, the same two books. Obviously I hadn’t ordered duplicates and my credit card statement confirmed the fact.
Now I am faced with the task of spending $10 in shipping charges and a couple hours of my time to return two books worth $22.00 total, while someone sitting at a call center will be completely lost trying to figure out the transaction.
Forget it, I’m not sending them back. Maybe put ’em on EBAY.
How’s that for being honest?
(Revised from NPR, ‘This I Believe’ Nov. 2009)