Wednesday, June 15, 2011
34 cents of honesty
~~ Character is doing the right thing when nobody's looking. There are too many people who think that the only thing that's right is to get by, and the only thing that's wrong is to get caught. -J.C. Watts ~~
I had an aggravating thing happen this afternoon. But aggravating as it was, I learned a valuable lesson, and as I reflect on it, the more powerful it becomes.
I ran into the grocery store this afternoon to grab a few supplies to make end-of-year deliciousness for the teachers and staff at my kids' school, with all 3 kids in tow. I only bought about 8 items, so I decided to just go through the U-Scan lane and check my own groceries. While I've gotten very good at juggling groceries, purse, club card, and children, its no easy task when your 2 year old is determined to squirm in the back of the cart to the point of traveling every last millimeter of it in a 5 minute time span.
So I scanned my groceries. Red potatoes...beep. Heavy cream...beep. Mini marshmallows....beep. And so on and so forth. I pressed the pay button, slid my credit card through, scolded my boy for leaning on the scale and making the machine angry at me (for the 12,548th time, give or take), grabbed my groceries and loaded them into the cart... Only to then realize the little one was sitting on a lemon.
Great. Fabulous. I forgot a lemon. My little one is being a pill, my middle one is across the aisle looking at gum she knows I won't buy, and the big one is touching everything...including the scale again. I looked at the lemon. I looked at the kids. I looked at the door. I looked at the people around me. I looked at the inattentive U-scan line clerk. I let out a frustrated sigh. I dug in my purse for money. 14 cents in change. Great. Fabulous. I have to use the debit card for one lousy lemon.
I'm not going to lie. For a fleeting second, the thought did cross my mind to just smuggle the lemon out. It would have been a whole lot easier and time-efficient than restarting the dang machine, wrestling with my kids for another 2 minutes... Ugh.
But alas, I am honest to a fault. I just don't like to lie. Never have. I just don't like the guilty, icky feeling I get from being dishonest. So, hassle that it was, I restarted the machine, let out a few more frustrated sighs, punched in the sticker code for the lemon, swiped my club card (on the upside, I saved 45 cents on my dang lemon), and put a whopping 34 cents on my debit card. 34 cents. 34 cents on a debit card. I felt like a total fool. I honestly was probably blushing over my 34 cent debit card purchase. I mean, who doesn't carry at least 34 cents?
But the more I think about it, despite the extra hassle, time, and embarrassment, I know I did the right thing. And as a mother, I don't want my children to pick up the social norm of dishonesty. I needed to set a good example, and show them integrity and honesty in practice.
So now I wonder, what is honesty worth anymore? Sure, most people won't go and steal something large or expensive. But I don't think most people would bother to be honest over a "oopsie" lemon left unpaid for in the bottom of their cart, especially if it was a hassle and you were in a hurry. I don't think honesty is worth 34 cents to most people. It may not even be worth a few dollars. I think that's sad.
Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe people are more honest than that. Maybe integrity, character, and honesty are principles in everyone's life, no matter how trivial the circumstance, how much of a hassle it is, or any other variable. But unfortunately, I kind of doubt it.
What do you think? (And since this is an honesty post, answer honestly.) Would you have gone back and paid for the lemon? Is 34 cents worth being honest about, even if its inconvenient? Do you think most people would be honest about it?