Integrity: Where’s Your Line in the Sand?

Snickers; photo by "lancem_123" via PhotoBucketSo the other day, I succumbed to the vending machines on campus and got a Snickers bar.  Need brain food, right?  And you know what?  It spit out two Snickers bars.  That’s right, TWO!

My first thought was that the vending machine gods had smiled upon me.  My second thought was a definition: Integrity is what you do when no one is looking.

My honesty/integrity level has always been pretty high – as a child, I got in more trouble for telling a lie than for whatever I had done wrong in the first place, and we raised our kids the same way. Don’t pass the blame to someone else, take responsibility for your own actions, work for your pay, and pay for what you get.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’d end up in the parking lot and find a greeting card or lipstick or something under my purse, and have to trudge the kids back in with me so I could pay for it.  I also couldn’t tell you how many Wows or Thank Yous I got when I did.

Vending machines are a little different, but I knew it would bother me all day if I just kept the second Snickers.  So I found the nearest office and asked who was in charge of the vending machines.

“Why, did it take your money?” the guy asked.

“No, it gave me an extra Snickers bar.”

He shrugged and said it must just be my lucky day.

The woman in the glass-walled private office smiled through her open door and nodded.  “The company that does the vending machines is off campus and nobody here has anything to do with them.  Enjoy it.”  And no, she didn’t want me to leave the money with them.

I thought about getting the company address and mailing it (I know, I know, I take things to extremes), but the postage plus their costs in processing a single dollar made that seem counterproductive.

So I finally walked into the computer lab where I was heading to begin with, feeling rather smug.  I ate the first Snickers, the second one is waiting for another calorie splurge, and my sense of integrity is intact.  Unless we’re going to talk about cheating on diets.

Obviously, I can carry things to the point where other people shake their heads.  But where is your line in the sand?  When do you go back to make something right, and when do you just let it go? 

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9 Responses to Integrity: Where’s Your Line in the Sand?

  1. I always return things/turn them in. I’m disappointed when the other person pockets it and walks away when it isn’t theirs. That was not my intent.

    • Jennifer Jensen says:

      I’m flabbergasted that a staff member you return something to would think that because it’s already off the shelves, they can just pocket it. Talk about not having any integrity! But I love hearing stories of people doing the right thing – kudos to you and how you’ve raised your kids, Diana.

  2. Mely says:

    An ATM once gave me $300.00 when I drove up to it. It was one of those ATM’s that was just sitting in a parking lot and not connected to a bank location. I waited for the person to come back that must have left their money but they didn’t. I even conducted my own business….. very slowly, and no one came. I finally called the bank it was associated with and they said the money was taken from a card that was not associated with their bank and told me to keep it. I suppose the fact that it was late on a Friday night had something to do with it. Anyway, they said they would cover it for the person who lost it since I called; that is if they contacted them. Even with all of that, I felt so guilty!!! So, I used the money to buy Christmas toys for the poor.

    • Jennifer Jensen says:

      Wow, what a story! That would be really tempting for most people, but isn’t that little voice nice to have? Glad you did such good with it, Mely, and thanks for stopping by.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Good to know Mom’s (and Dad’s) teachings have lasted! 🙂

    Like others who have posted, I go back into Walmart and pay for the stupid whatever that got wedged between the bags. And I’m always deeply grateful for the integrity of others when they return a lost wallet/sports bag/whatever with all the cards/money still inside.

    The fun part is surprising other people the same way. I found a wallet on the ground in our neighborhood. It was right beside the wheel of a pickup, so it was pretty clear what had happened. The DL address didn’t match our neighborhood, so I started knocking on doors. When I found the right place, the guy was inside visiting a friend. They were both so surprised that it was returned and in tact! That just made my day.

    On the other hand, I would have eaten the Snickers with hardly a second thought. 🙂

  4. Elizabeth says:

    By the way – thanks for a great topic for Family Home Evening. Everyone loved your story and all the replies. After our own stories, this launched a really good discussion on why we obey laws, commandments, rules, etc.
    Elizabeth recently posted..Trail of Tears – a Brief HistoryMy Profile

  5. The first winter my husband and I were married, money was really, really tight. There was one day I went grocery shopping and somehow both the clerk and I failed to notice the big bag of cat food on the bottom part of my cart. I was out to my car before I noticed it. And I did turn around, go back in, and pay for it. As much as we were in need of money, to me not paying would have been the same as stealing, even though I hadn’t intentionally not paid for it the first time. Integrity is priceless.
    Marcy Kennedy recently posted..How to Write a Killer PitchMy Profile

  6. Jennifer Jensen says:

    Hi, Marcy. Same as stealing – well said. Just like if I hadn’t received a bill for something, I would call and ask about it. If, for some strange reason, the store said not to worry about it, then fine – I’ll keep the money. But otherwise, they didn’t plan on me receiving goods or a service without paying, so yeah, same as stealing.

    Now to go find out about writing a killer pitch!