When No One’s Watching

My father took me to McCrory’s, a five-and-dime type store in the Philadelphia area, to buy watercolor paint for a school project when I was in second grade.

After shopping for some other items, we checked out, walked out of the store, and then out of the large shopping mall in our long walk back to our car. As he unlocked the car doors, my father looked down at my hand. “What are you holding?”

“The paint,” I answered helpfully. I had forgotten I was holding it, and didn’t think to offer it up when we were checking out. I was eight years old, and my conception of commerce was limited.

“We didn’t pay for it,” my father said in that very annoyed voice he used when one of his children had done something that was going to cause him great inconvenience. “We have to go back and pay for it.”

“But they only cost 79 cents,” I said, trying to minimize the damage (and avoid the walk back to the store). “Maybe it isn’t that big a deal to them.”

“It’s wrong, and we have to go back and pay for it.” We made the long walk back to the store, and my father paid the 79 cents for the paint.

I was reminded of this when Professor David Richardson passed along an uplifting story that happened here at the college. In Professor Richardson’s words,

Good College Citizen of the Month Nomination: Mr. Aziz Zatar (currently a taxi student in Mr. Bob Whiteman’s class) came into my office today and asked me to come look at something. I went with him to the vending machines where he showed me that one of the machines (the one on the far right) was unlocked and so fully accessible to anyone who noticed (i.e., the money holder slid out and the glass door protecting the food opened with a simple tug).

He also pointed out that the machine had most likely been robbed already (as the cash container was empty).

It would have been easy for him to just notice and walk away, but he didn’t.

Professor Richardson can do a far better job than I in explaining the ethics involved in these types of acts. In my world view, I learned at an early age that it is important to do the right thing, even if you won’t get caught doing the wrong thing. The real test of character is how you act when no one is watching.

Thank you, Mr. Zatar, for setting such a great example for the HWC community. I am sure you didn’t want credit, but your actions deserve recognition.

Published by Don Laackman

Leader with higher education, non-profit and private-sector consulting experience.

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