Sometimes you just know. I saw the young couple in the grocery store, walking arm in arm, acting nonchalant.Â And yet there was something about their body language that held my attention. I watched the woman veer off towards the bakery section of the grocery store while the young man browsed in the meat department.
The womanâ€™s eyes cut to the left, cut to the right, and then she slid her hand into the cookie bin and withdrew her prize. She protected the cookie in the crook of her arm and quickly began eating it as she walked towards the young man. If she were a shark I believe â€œfeeding frenzyâ€ would have been an appropriate term.
I leaned into my husband and whispered â€œPlease tell me sheâ€™s going to let the cashier know she needs to purchased that cookie, but already ate it.â€ He, being wise, said nothing. I felt sad.
I suppose I could surmise that she was starving, or homeless, or ???, and needed food. But the couple looked well fed, well dressed, and bored.
I admit that I am a goody two shoes about these sorts of thingsâ€¦ itâ€™s just part of my upbringing. Â I cannot tell you how many times I have chastised my husband for eating a grape or two in the grocery store. Â He says it’s common knowledge that customers can sample grapes before deciding to buy them. I say if he didnâ€™t buy them they are not his to eat. Â It would be different if the store had a sign inviting people to sample a grape or two, but I have not seen such a sign in our grocery store.Â I mean where do you draw the line? Can I sample an apple or two before deciding to buy? How about a steak or two? I donâ€™t think so.
A number of years ago, when I was still a dental assistant, I learned an interesting lesson.Â Between patients I made a quick trip to our dental clinicâ€™s bathroom.Â As I was about to wash my hands I noticed a large and beautiful diamond ring sitting on the sink.Â Not once did I Â think,Â â€œOh look what I foundâ€¦ and now can keep!â€ What I did think was that the woman who left her ring was probably feeling frantic if she realized it was missing.
I took the ring to our office manager and explained that I had found it in the restroom. Could I leave it with her in case the woman called and asked about it? The office manager said that was fine, but, she already knew who owned the ring.Â She would call and let the woman know we had it, and that it could be picked up at her convenience.
The next day the office manager waved me to the front desk. The woman had arrived to claim her ring and wanted to thank me for turning it in. She gushed with gratitude and told me she had left money with the office manager as a reward for my honesty. The ring was steeped in sentimental value for her, and was therefore priceless.
I told her that a reward was completely unnecessary, and that I was just happy she had her ring back.Â She was adamant that she needed to do this for me. There was too little honesty left in the world as it was.
After she left I went to the front desk with a big smile on my face, and expressed the pleasure I felt in helping the woman.Â The office manager Â nodded, Â handed me $50, and then said, â€œShe actually gave me $100, but since I was the one who called her I felt I should keep half the money.â€Â Ahh. I could hardly say anything since I was the person who sincerely wanted no monetary reward for doing the right thing. But it still irked me a bit that the office manager had made a post-reward decision that she was owed half for dialing the phone number.
What do you think? Have our morals slipped a bit? Are there degrees of honesty? My daughter often teases me about taking ink pens. â€œStealing,â€ would be her term, as opposed to “taking.” Â Most of the time I “steal” a pen without realizing I didnâ€™t put it back after using it…like at a bank for instance. Â Maybe sheâ€™s right. But, I know from working in a dental office that we encouraged people to take our office pens because they had the clinic name and number on it. If, in turn, that person left the pen somewhere else, our name was getting â€œout there.â€
So, where is the line drawn when it comes to honesty? Itâ€™s murky, muddy, and layered. In the meantime I will continue to discourage my husband from eating grapes he hasn’t yet purchased. Then again, I did let him steal my heart when I wasnâ€™t looking and that turned out spectacular.