When you are a kid, you are taught a lot about doing "the right thing". Lots of children's books are written with the moral falling into that category. They rarely prepare you for the adult world though, and what doing "the right thing" can mean. As a child, it seems simple. There is "the right thing", and you do it. End of story. As an adult though, you hear talk of how complicated things really are, that there is a gray area, and things just aren't that simple. I do know in certain cases, yes, that is true, but I think a lot of the time people just use it as a cop-out. They know what the right thing to do is, but they don't want to, or aren't willing to do it.
One thing I hope I teach my children is to become an adult that doesn't shy away from it. Lately, me and the hubby have been getting some hard lessons on what doing the right thing is about. In the adult world, unfortunately, there is often no sticky star to reward you for choosing the higher road. In fact, there are even plenty of times when your "reward" is ridicule, or worse.
I was proud of myself last night. I went to the store to buy some dog food and cat food and a few other things. When I was done shopping, I decided to use one of those self checkout registers. I don't know why, I hate those things, and I am pretty sure the feeling is mutual. After fighting with it and getting all checked out, which involved an employee having to help me more than once, I was ready to leave. As I walked out of the store, looking over my cart, my eyes landed on the bag of cat food. I thought about it and realized I didn't remember scanning it. I checked my receipt as I got to the car and saw that no, I hadn't. I loaded the stuff in the truck with my brain fighting over what to do, I am ashamed to say. There was that little voice saying "No one will ever even know, and this is a huge company that is not going to miss seven bucks. You're tired already, just go home, and save the money."
I am happy to say now though that I resisted. I knew what the right thing to do was, and I marched back into that store and did it. The employee over seeing the self checkouts couldn't hide her shock. "Most people wouldn't have come back" she said. I told her I knew, but that I wouldn't have felt right not paying. I am sure the guilt would have eaten me the whole way home, and every time I went to feed the cat. Because sure, the company wouldn't miss my measly seven dollars, and no one would have ever known, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't be stealing. I am one who believes that it's what you do when people aren't looking that shows who you really are.
I was lucky in my case to get a nod of approval. That I was rewarded, even just a tiny bit. The hubby, unfortunately, was not as lucky. He took a much bigger stand, and was burned for it. I won't get into too many details, but I will say that a soldier we know was abusing his wife. I think even in the civilian world, people tend to try to stay out of each other's business. In the Army community it is even much more so. It's a climate of "gossip about everyone, but never interfere." The Army's official stance is that people should step in when they know abuse is going on. Sadly though, policy and reality can be two vastly different things. My husband took a stand with this other soldier, he was tired of seeing it go on and was set on doing something about it. His reward though, for standing up? Getting chewed out and yelled at in the middle of the street by the other soldier's first sergeant. . .for interfering. He came home resolved that he had done the right thing, but he was very shaken up by the whole thing.
I think he would have much rather had a gold sticky star.