There's a discussion going on at another blog that I read about honesty. It seems that a mom found a duck in her stroller (worth $7) after she'd gotten her kids (3 years and 4 months) into the car at the mall. One of the kids was sleeping. She had not paid for the duck.
In the great scheme of things, when companies are stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from their employees, a $7 duck probably isn't that big a damn deal. On the other hand, it seems to me that my integrity is worth more than $7.
When I bought our Children's Museum membership last week, I was given the application to fill out, and there were about two dozen blanks for kids. Apparently grandparents who buy memberships can put all their grandkids on their membership, and take them for free. It occurred to me, briefly, that no one would know if I put down Lucy and Jane - our "nearly nieces," the children of BJ's best friend Brandon - as my kids, so I could bring them for free. After all, if grandparents can list all their grandkids, why couldn't I list my nearly nieces? I hesitated for a minute, then decided that I would rather spend the extra $20 ($100, instead of $80) to get the membership plus two guests package, than be dishonest. (Besides, then I can bring grandparents, or the neighbor kids, or whoever I want on that "plus two"! What a deal!)
So, the price of my integrity is greater than $7. Greater than $20. But is there a level at which things are so small that they don't matter? If something was $5, or $3, would I just take it?
Nope. I've gone back in the grocery store and paid for a case of pop that I accidentally stole. I've used the U-Scan at Walmart to pay for an item that I accidentally forgot to ring through the first time. I called the grocery store from their parking lot to return a package of batteries that MG stole (and ate) while she was in that cart that looks like a car thing (if they're going to put toddlers in the front of a cart, near the floor, where Mom can't see them, they have to expect batteries to get eaten once in a while!). I always count my change, and I always give it back when they make an error in my favor - even if it's a very small one.
I guess maybe it's because I believe in karma. I'm pretty sure that if I steal that package of batteries or take the extra change I'm going to get hit by a car on the way home. That's just the way my life works. Maybe I'm a little too much like (My Name is) Earl. Or maybe I have such a good life, that I feel like it's my responsibility to keep deserving it, so I try to maintain good karma in order to not feel like I'm a big phony.
We're government contractors (at work). I keep the books. Government auditors come regularly to make sure that I'm doing things properly. They like me honest to the penny. Tax-payers probably appreciate it, too.
I guess it makes me wonder when people started to feel so entitled. Is it because they look at Walmart and see a company, and not people? If the duck had been from a little Mom & Pop Boutique, where the blogger knew the owners, would she have felt differently about returning it? Why?
I wrote, in my comment, "Stealing is stealing, whether you get caught or not, whether you have kids or not, and whether you did it on purpose or not. Even if you didn't put the item there (or fail to ring it up) on purpose, as soon as you realize the mistake and keep the item anyway, you have stolen it! Whether it costs $0.01 or $100 or $100,000." In order to teach that truth to my kids, I need to live it. Every day. Kids do as you do, not as you say. If I say, "Don't steal!" a thousand times, but they catch me stealing once, I've just taught them two things 1) it's ok to steal, and 2) it's ok to ignore what Mom says. Yes, even though they're babies. MG already says "please" and "thank you" and "excuse me" at 21 months - without being prompted. She is learning by my example every single day. I truly believe that it begins at birth.
I'm not saying that I'm any sort of a paragon of virtue. I have done some things in my life of which I am not proud. I believe that I've apologized and made amends for most of those things, as well as I can. (If not, I'm sorry!) I also don't believe that mothers are (or should be) any more noble than anyone else. I guess it just makes me a little bit sad that we live in a world where the vast majority of the people commenting on that blog are saying, "I would've kept it, too," and "It doesn't matter." It DOES matter.
At least, it matters to me. And I hope that it will matter to my kids. And I hope that by addressing this issue here, maybe I can help someone look at it another way.