Do you ever feel like you’re being watched? You are.
A few years back, I was in the checkout line at my local grocery store. As I paid and the last few things were packed into the bags, the young cashier handed me my change. I thanked him, accepted the money, grabbed the receipt, and exited with my cart (the one which – as usual – had one malfunctioning, very annoying wobbly wheel).
Looking down on my way out I noticed that the cashier had given me too much change. “Oh well, what’s the big deal?” I said to myself, “It’s just a couple dollars, right? It’s not like it’s going to bankrupt the supermarket. Besides, I shop here all the time… it will all even out one day.”
It kept nagging me as I stood in the parking lot, and although I was in a hurry I walked back to the checkout line and interrupted the cashier as he scanned the next customer’s groceries.
“You accidentally gave me too much change.” I told the young man, and extended my hand to offer him the money back.
He paused and stared at me for a moment before smiling and replying, “Oh, it wasn’t an accident.”
“I recognized you from your church. My friend invited me to your Sunday night Mass and Life Teen thing last week and I heard you talk about honesty and integrity. So I gave you too much change on purpose. I wanted to see what you’d do. I told myself that if you came back in, I’d go back to that Church. If you didn’t, I’d cover the loss in my register and wouldn’t go back because that would mean you were just like the other ‘church people’ I’ve met in the past who are full of it.”
I stood there speechless and shocked. My first thought was “Thank God I looked at the money.” (His plan was far from flawless.) I looked him in the eye, thanked him for holding me accountable, and told him I’d see him the next Sunday. He agreed and sure enough, he was there in the front row a few days later, just as he promised.
I don’t tell this story to affirm myself – not at all. I share it only to reiterate how our actions and decisions always make a difference even when we don’t know it.
Integrity isn’t always about the “huge” moments. Integrity is often about those seemingly small, almost insignificant moments in the eyes of the world. It’s in those moments, those small, everyday situations that character grows and virtue is unleashed in new ways.
You might think people don’t notice the things you do or the way you live, but you’d be wrong. People notice more than we think. They can tell when someone who looks good onpaper is actually quite plastic.