When did “everybody else does it” become an acceptable excuse for unacceptable behavior?
Living alone provides lots of time for thinking, and lately I’ve been thinking about ethics in general and personal responsibility more specifically.
We live in scary times. The rosiest recent studies indicate that over half of high school students cheat on tests. These, our future doctors, teachers and parents, don’t see anything wrong with that. A couple times recently it’s been suggested that I take advantage of a loophole — nothing really illegal, just a shortcut. “Everybody else does it.”
Concerns about what this means to our world keep popping into my head and I’m trying to simply let the thoughts flow through. Like pregnancy, a good insight can’t be hurried.
During the process of making House safe and homey, one step at a time as money allowed, I’ve had dealings with private contractors and local store owners of nearly every persuasion. They’ve provided my heating system and roof, back steps and pump house, appliances and rugs. Joe Wilson takes care of Lily the Kia, Jasmine cuts my hair and Gary delivers pellets and bird food.
Perhaps the only things they have in common are a solid sense of personal integrity — and they trust me. They know my word is good and so are my checks. This is, quite simply, the most important thing in my life. In the morning I greet that funny little old face in the mirror, and I like the woman behind it.
I’ve begun to realize that’s almost entirely because of early influential people in my life. The insights began to jell when I stopped at Burtschell’s and bought a carpet remnant from Bob and Beverly. We talked of Bob’s dad, Frank, who passed away a few years ago, and of my friendship with him when I was a child and he owned a paint store. He was a kind man and I was a funny little duck who never thought about age in relationship to friends.
In my childhood there were a lot of good folks, but three men stand out — men who taught me about integrity and kindness and honor — not through anything they said but simply by the examples they provided. Frank Burtschell, Art Ames and Bill Parker are all gone now, but thanks in large part to my desire for their approval, I like me.
This is what it really means for the village to raise the child. Be an example of integrity. Skip the shortcuts, avoid the sleaze factor and remember you can’t be “a little bit” dishonest any more than you can be a little bit pregnant. How will kids know what’s right if they see the adults they trust being less than honest?
We can reverse the downward slide of civilization and honor the memory of those who modeled honor for us. Besides, as we age, the reflection in the morning mirror can be pretty awful unless we like and trust the person behind it.