One Saturday morning, I was running errands with my son, Joss, when a strange thing happened.
I found integrity at Home Depot.
No, it wasn’t in one of the employees (who are surprisingly helpful at my local store), nor was it in the store itself.
On our quest for flowers for mommy and some water-softener, I found integrity in myself.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with water-softener salt, it’s something that helps keep your water softener cleaned out and working well so your water isn’t “hard.” Hard water is akin to taking a shower in liquid sandpaper – which is perfect if you’re trying to exfoliate.
When you buy the 40 lb. bag (geez!) of salt, you need to tell the cashier to ring it up, then load it into your cart on your way out (large piles of it sit conveniently by the exit). I asked for two bags, swiped my debit card, and got the salt.
When I got home I looked at the receipt. The cashier had not rung up the salt, which cost about $16.
I was faced with a decision. Nobody knew but me. I could have the salt free of charge. But just because nobody knew, didn’t make it right. Even though it was not intentional, and the huge corporation that is Home Depot would never miss my $16, it still felt wrong in my gut.
Then I realized, this situation had the potential to build up my integrity, or chip away at it.
Here’s the thing: (1) the nagging feeling in my gut wasn’t going to go away; (2) and not paying could cost me far more than $16, because it would have undermined how I felt about myself. Not a good recipe for success.
What kind of man was I?
I had to choose whether I was the guy who did the right thing, or the guy who ignored my integrity to save a few bucks. So I went back and paid for the salt (it did take me a few days to get back to the store).
This experience also gave me an opportunity to set a good example for my son, Max, who was with me this time. I explained to him what had happened and why I made the decision I made. This made the cost of those two 40 lb. bags worth their weight in gold.
Before you start thinking I’m acting all high and mighty about this, I’ll admit there have been times where my integrity has wavered. And although it’s always over small stuff, I find myself wondering – how much integrity is enough?
Is burning an occasional CD from the library really “small stuff,” in the cosmic scheme of things? When compared to murder, stealing and infidelity, I’d have to say yes. Does that make it right, acceptable, or just plain rationalized? I think we all have a sliding scale of what seems like a breech of integrity and what does not. But where do we draw the line?
And remember you are not alone…