Christmas was an exciting time at my house growing up. My dad was a buyer for a large company, which meant the UPS truck stopped in front of our house several times a day bearing gifts from an army of salesmen. Usually the packages contained big boxes of chocolates or an occasional fruitcake. Sometimes the gifts were larger.
Company policy said my dad could not accept any gifts valued over $50, or maybe it was $100. Most salespeople stayed within the acceptable limit, but one particular child-wowing package did not.
My dad said we had to send it back. My sisters wanted him to make an exception, and I kinda’ wanted him to make an exception, too. But I was also really proud of him and I wanted to be proud of him more than I wanted to keep the gift.
My dad was a consistent lesson in honesty and integrity and I loved that about him. I try to follow his example, an example that spoke way louder than words.
The cashier gives me too much change. Is my integrity worth $5? Excuse me, ma’am…
I get to my car to discover a small item at the bottom of my cart. I check the receipt, nope, wasn’t charged. Is it my lucky day? Should I rejoice over a free mascara, as many I know would? I think not. The $16 price tag on that item will cost my soul a whole lot more. Back into the store I go.
Thanks Dad. That felt good.
There is a scene from the movie Out of Africa that has come to mind often these 30 years since I saw it:
Karen: He has got lovely books. Does he lend them?
Berkeley: We had a friend – Hopworth – he’d got a book from Denys and didn’t return it. Denys was furious. I said to Denys, “You wouldn’t lose a friend for the sake of a book.” He said, “No, but he has, hasn’t he?”
Ill-gotten gain always comes with one price or another.
My sister came with me to watch a high school basketball state semi-final game last year. The referees were clearly not calling the game fair. A bully of a player on the opposing team took full advantage of that fact and brutalized our players. “Ill-gotten gain,” I muttered. “Cheaters never prosper!,” I yelled. Of course we won the game. And the next game, too. State Champs.
My sister apparently relayed the events of the game to her husband because later he mocked, “So that’s how Christians talk smack?”
Mock all you want, I know who I am.
Sometimes we try to build a child’s self-esteem by giving him/her a trophy for showing up. Or by telling the child he/she is wonderful with words that have no gold to back them. But my self-esteem was built one proud-of-myself decision-followed-by-action brick at a time.
Tomorrow a lesson from Selma.
© 2015, The Reluctant Baptist
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Teacher’s Pet.”