Medals for Mediocrity: Living in a Culture Where Honest Behavior Is Deemed Heroic

This past Sunday evening, four college football players in Wayne, N.J., needing batteries and cable for their dorm room stereo system, went shopping.  So they walked into Buddy’s Small Lots, found what they were looking for, and, seeing no cashier around, finally gave up and left the money for the purchase (including tax) on the counter.

And thus began their fifteen minutes of fame.

The store was actually closed, but the front door had malfunctioned, giving them free access.  When the deed became known, a local T.V. network aired the clip from the security camera, and asked these shoppers to come forward.  They did, somewhat reluctantly, for fear they were in trouble.  Quite to the contrary, all four were applauded, interviewed on the Today show, and each given $50 gift cards to the store as a reward for their honesty.

If you take this story and winnow all the media chaff from it, what you have left is simply this:  four men acted honestly.  Presented with an easy opportunity to steal, they chose not to, but instead paid in full for the items they needed.  They did the right thing.  And for that common act of decency, they were treated as moral heroes.

While there is nothing wrong, and plenty good, with affirming honesty and encouraging decency, there is something deeply disturbing about a culture in which such actions make national news.  It is as if to say that we expect our citizens to act dishonestly, and, when they do not, we are shocked.  The store manager, when he saw on camera what the youths had done, said that his “jaw dropped.”  When upright behavior is jaw-dropping, when honesty is deemed heroic, we are in a most lamentable state of affairs.

So what are we to do?  I will start in my most direct sphere of influence:  I’ll talk to my children about this story.  I’ll tell them what I just told you.  And I’ll go on to tell them that, of course, I expect them to be honest.  I expect them not to act selfishly and steal.  But I will also affirm that they should never feel any entitlement to praise for simply doing the right thing.  The chief reward in doing what is right is simply that:  knowing that you’ve done what is right, that you have done your duty toward God and your fellow man.  Don’t expect a $50 gift certificate for choosing to avoid a life of criminality.

Image

Advertisements

Single Post Navigation

5 thoughts on “Medals for Mediocrity: Living in a Culture Where Honest Behavior Is Deemed Heroic

  1. IT IS SOO GOOD TO SEE THAT THERE IS STILL GOOD HONEST FOLKS IN OUR COUNTRY. I JUST DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT HAS HAPPENED TOP MOST OF THE WORLD, KILLING, ROBBING, MISSTREATMENT OF KIDS, OLDER PEOPLE, JUST THE HUMAN
    RACE IN GENERAL? I AM SO GLAD I WAS NOT BROUGHT UP TO HAVE EVEN THE THOUGHTS THESE PEOPLE MUST HAVE AS IT IS JUST SOO WRONG!

  2. Superbly written and spot on. Strong work sir.

  3. whomdphd on said:

    “It is as if to say that we expect our citizens to act dishonestly, and, when they do not, we are shocked.”

    I’m surmising that the lawyer of Luke 10, upon recounting to his friends … and maybe even a neighbor or two … the acts (or better said, the non-acts) of a Levite and a priest spoken of first by the Christ, did NOT exclaim with the telling: “My jaw simply dropped, when I heard what the clergy did! Can you believe it? Man, where’s Rabbi Jesus getting this stuff?”

    I’m not going so far as to suggest that the first century A+D was behaviorally much, MUCH worse than our own 21st; but then we read nothing about the lawyer and his buddies attempting to find and reward the Samaritan with fifty drachmas, either. “Look here, wise guy …First, a good Samaritan is like one amidst a zillion, or like a needle in a haystack. And second, carry that amount of cash around on the highway to Jericho, and you’re more likely to pass your way through the eye of that needle, than to keep your wallet or your head intact!”

    Your (unworthy) servant,
    Herr Doktor, S.S.P.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: