Doing the Right Thing

Doing the Right Thing

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Mom

Doing the Right Thing

You don’t raise heroes, you raise sons. And if you treat them like sons, they’ll turn out to be heroes, even if it’s just in your own eyes.
~Walter M. Schirra, Sr.

I have come to realize that while we are growing up, some of the lessons we need to learn the most are often the ones that we don’t appreciate until later in life. Let me share with you one such lesson that I learned.

When I was seventeen, I found a watch while walking down the hallway of my high school. The watch was expensive looking, set with gold and pearls. As I picked it up, greed suddenly came over me, and instead of taking the watch and turning it into the office like I should have, I decided to keep it.

When I got home from school, I found my mother cooking dinner in the kitchen. Thinking that she would be impressed, I proudly held out my prize for her to see. Mom, however, was far from impressed. Instead, she was angry that I had kept the watch instead of turning it in. Mom then ordered me to drive straight back to the school and take the watch to someone at the office. I started to argue, but after taking a good look at the expression on Mom’s face, I realized that would get me nowhere. There was nothing left for me to do but obey.

I have to admit, I was rather angry with Mom for making me give up the watch. I felt that it was justly mine since I was the one who had found it. Yes, I knew she was right, but greed had compelled me to keep the watch, and now pride wouldn’t allow me to admit that I had done something wrong. But time passed, and I forgot all about the watch until four years later.

While I was attending college, I had managed to get a job at a Walmart pushing carts off the parking lot. One morning, I found a checkbook that had been left in a shopping cart. Immediately, I took it to the customer service desk and gave it to the employee there so that the customer who had lost it could pick it up.

Later, as I was outside pushing carts, a man came up to me and told me that his wife had left their checkbook in a shopping cart the night before; he wanted to know if it had been found. When he told me his name, I realized that he was the owner of the checkbook I had found. I explained to him that I’d found his checkbook that morning, and that he could go inside and claim it at the service desk.

The look on the man’s face was a combination of gratitude and relief. He pulled out his wallet and offered me some cash, but I refused. I was proud of myself, prouder than I had been in a long time, and I wasn’t about to let something like money spoil that.

As I watched the man go to pick up his checkbook, my thoughts went back to the day when Mom had made me return the watch. Suddenly, the lesson she’d taught me that day came into focus.

Mom wasn’t trying to be mean when she made me give back the watch. She wanted to make sure that her son would always be honest, and never take what didn’t belong to him. Because of her, I did the right thing when I found that checkbook. Because of her, I had been rewarded with a feeling of self-worth that no amount of money could buy.

Thanks, Mom, for teaching me to do the right thing.

~Steve Chapman

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