Doing the Right Thing

For some, doing the right thing comes naturally. Giving money to the homeless is no big deal. Helping old men and women with their groceries is simply a part of the normal, every day shopping trip. For others, doing the right thing takes a little more work.

One day this week, I found myself tested more than usual…

Let me break down the day for ya’.

I was running late. Everywhere. Didn’t matter where I was going, or at what time, I hit every damn stoplight and waited at every train track. I went to Target for a few key things, and of course, walked out buying a cart load of items, none of them being the “key” things I needed. Back to Target I went. (It was also rainy and windy and I was lugging shopping carts uphill both in and out of the store…did I mention that?) Anyhow, the day was almost over. I had one last stop to make: Safeway. I filled my cart, happy as a clam that I’d finally got something right. I remembered everything I needed, and then some. The lines were horrendous (of course I chose the longest and slowest line, behind the woman with the hoard of coupons), but that was okay. It was my last stop. I wouldn’t have to fight another line the rest of the day. I skated to my car, unloaded my groceries into the trunk, and there it was…a gallon of milk staring up at me from the bottom tray of the cart.

You’ve got to me kidding me.

That gallon of milk and I had a staring contest for about a minute. Deciding there was no way—not one—that I’d brave that store again, or that line for a measly $3.00 gallon of milk, I plopped it into my trunk. Put my hand on the trunk lid. Started to close it. I looked around—no Safeway employees, police, or FBI in sight. (They wait for unsuspecting milk thieves, you know.)

Then, I heard the jingle of the donation bell from a guy standing at the front of the store.

“Merry Christmas!” he bellowed, full of wretched holiday cheer.

The battle with my conscience commenced. No one would know if I took the milk. I could come back next time and donate $4.00 to the grocer. (More than the $3.00, see? I’d be doing a good deed. Really. Truly.) I could hop in my car, get nice and warm, and come back later when the crowds were gone.

But would I really remember to pay $4.00 next time? Would I really want to come back into town? Was the desire to escape really so great that I’d be willing to steal some milk? Even if I hadn’t meant to steal it?

People must’ve thought I was having some kind of breakdown. I probably was. I kid you not, I stared into my trunk for a good five minutes.

Until I realized how utterly ridiculous it was to be having this inner war with myself.

The answer to my dilemma was simple and staring me in the face:

What would I tell my children to do, if they were in the same situation?

Damn. Damnity damn.

Back into Safeway I went. I grumbled every step of the way. I waited in line. Forever. I dropped that milk on the counter like it weighed a ton and sighed when I paid for it. I hated that damn milk. And hated that I had to make the trek back into the store to pay for it.

But I absolutely loved the feeling when I got home. It didn’t matter what kind of day I had; I felt good about doing the right thing, for the sake of it being right. I finished what I needed to and accomplished what others might not have. I fought the allure of the easy path and did what I should have.

If I’m ever asked the question, “If you found a wallet full of cash that wasn’t yours, would you return it to the rightful owner?”

I now know my answer. I’d hate every last number I punched to ring the person up, but I’d give the wallet back, and my spirit would glow.

This holiday season, remember what we tell our children: Be good. Do good things. Santa is watching. The Christmas Elf is reporting. But go one step further. Set an example that you should be and do good, when no one is watching at all.

About Kristin Miller

Kristin Miller is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than thirty novels. After writing dark and gritty versions of "happily ever after" for more than a decade, she turned her hand to psychological suspense, a genre she's loved since childhood. She lives in Northern California with her husband and two children. Facebook: Twitter: Web:

Posted on December 15, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. Awww…LOVE this. Not many people at all would do that. After the year we have had I would tempted to say screw it. See–someone stole an entire semi and trailor from us in April. Vanished. Giant red and shiny and no one has seen it since. Anywhere. Not long after that happened…we were at a Wal Mart. Came out to our car and on the ground was a purse belonging to someone else. It was around 100 degrees that day. And of course wal mart was packed. Free air conditioning I guess. My 1st thought was take it in because God knows we could certainly use our own bit of good karma. Yes, i thought of our own Karma first. Second, it had medications in it that I was positive the person would need. So, in we went and handed the purse over to the Manager at the service desk. They said Thank you and on our way out, we heard them say “It’s not like the woman will be seeing it again anytime soon.” The woman had just been arrested for shoplifting and had dropped in it the scuffle with police outside. She had a purse FULL of money and yet shoplifted a shirt!? My daughter at the time said “see why does she get to be so horrible and still get her belongings returned to her? and we did nothing and someone stole big time from us. how is that right?” My reply ” It doesn’t matter what the woman did or didn’t do. It doesn’t matter if we ever get our semi and trailor back. What matters is knowing that even in the midst of horrible actions by other people, we still did the right thing.” Her reply “It still sucks.”….LOL I hope someday, she sees it in a different light.

    • That does suck, but it’s a good way to learn that the strength of her morals have nothing to do with the strength of someone else’s. Just because the shoplifter is okay with being morally-stumped, doesn’t mean we should all shadow it.

      Loved your story. Thanks for commenting. 🙂

      • true…and of course, she knows that. but the anger she had about everything was a nasty little booger 🙂 hope you have a wonderful Christmas Kristin ❤

  2. It is really great to know that there are still honest people left in this world. I am very proud that you did the right thing. And remember God is always watching.
    God Bless!!!

  3. This story made me smile because it has a wonderful moral message but at the same time it was also fun. Often times the person watching you do your good and mis-deeds is myself. For me I have a really annoying, nagging inner voice. I’d rather do the good thing, because it feels right and another, that voice will go away. I also believe in karma. If I do something good, something good may just come my way when I least expect it. I guess the second moral of the story is to watch out for milk thieves! 🙂

  4. This is s a great post Kristin! Doing the right thing is often the harder thing to do but the emotional and mental gratification is worth it. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to give cash back at a cash register when a cashier counted change wrong, and yes I could just take the money but I know the cashier would either have to make up the missing money or loose her job and I don’t want that to happen to anyone if I can help it.

    • Glad to know I’m not the only one who gives back incorrect change. I used to be a waitress, and if a table walked out, it came out of my tips. I *hated* it. After doing that a couple times, it would be wrong of me to dig into someone else’s pocket for an honest mistake.

  5. Michelle Bledsoe

    I have had a similar situation. Either it’s something on the bottom of the cart or under my purse in the seat area. Thank you for sharing with us.

    • Oh! I’ve forgotten stuff under my purse too! Or there’s been a couple times when my youngest grabbed something and hung onto it as we perused the aisles. Then when it was time to leave, I almost walked out with the toy still in my son’s hand. It happens…

  6. Great story. I have totally had days like that and been in a similar situation. It completely preyed on my mind until I resolved the situation and I really did feel better afterword. So yes I too would give the wallet back. And I would cry a little inside thinking of all the things I could get, but I know I could never be happy with them knowing how I got them.

  7. Terrific story! 🙂 that’s an inspiration to us all for doing the right thing!

  8. What a great story about doing the right thing. I really liked the comment about being good and doing good when no one is watching. 🙂 It just makes you feel better and makes you such a better person.

  9. ah, ya goody goody! 🙂 good on ya, tho

  10. Nice to know there are still people like you out there; I’ve lost my wallet twice in the last few years and I never got them back.

  11. What an awesome story!! And yeah, it would be tough to choose……but I HAVE found a wallet before, and thought about all the hours some poor sclep like myself worked to make that money, and how they probably wouldn’t be able to pay bills, and turned it in. And someone was already looking for it! I always try to think that if I do the right thing, it will come back to me someday…you ever hear that song The Chain of Love by Clay Walker? I totally belive in that!!

    • That’s awesome!! Too bad you and Diane (commented above) couldn’t have met up when she lost hers. 🙂

      And I’ve never heard The Chain of Love. I’ll have to find it on mixpod and give it a listen.

  12. It’s easy to do the right thing when people are watching. You’re correct that the challenge is doing the right thing when you think no one is looking.

  13. May, Erin, BettieLee, Catherine–Thank you!!

    And big hugs right back atcha!

  14. You did the right thing – I’m proud of you! Plus…it gave you an awesome blog entry. 🙂

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