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.