Monday, May 24, 2010

Shopping-Cart Virtue

According to a story in the book, Hugs for Dad, by John William Smith, a father asked his son after grocery shopping to return their cart to the retrieval area. Although it would have taken only a minute, the son protested.

"C'mon, Dad," he said, "there are carts all over the lot. None of those people returned theirs. No one expects them to."

Then Mom chimed in. "For heaven's sake, they pay people to collect the carts. Returning one more won't change the history of the world. Let's just go."

Dad was about to surrender when he saw an elderly couple walking together to return their cart. After a moment, he said to his son, "We're not responsible for what other people do, but we are responsible for what we do. There are two kinds of people: those who put their carts away and those who don't. We put our carts away because that's the kind of people we are."

This story isn't just about grocery carts. It's about doing the right thing in a world that seems to promote rationalizations and excuses that demean or trivialize simple acts of virtue. There are two kinds of people: those who find the strength to do what they ought to and those who find excuses not to.

People of character do the right thing even if no one else does, not because they think it will change the world, but because they refuse to be changed by the world.

It doesn't imply that people who don't return their shopping carts are moral felons, but there is a lot to admire in people who have such a strong sense of decency and responsibility that they put principles above convenience

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