I don’t know if I believe in Karma, but I know that I don’t want to take any chances. For most of my life, and even more significantly the older I get, I want to do the right thing. My conscience weighs heavily on me almost always. Ogden Nash once said that the only way to be happy is to have "a clear conscience or none at all" and I fully believe it.
A few weeks ago it was my grandmother’s birthday, and on the way to the party I stopped at Costco to purchase a few novels for her. Costco sticks these big price stickers on the front of their books and, when I got into the car, I peeled the stickers off the novels. One of the novels had a textured, matte cover and the sticker left a big, messy sticker stain on the top right corner of the front cover. It looked terrible and, when we stopped at Target to get a gift bag I purchased an identical copy of the book, one without the enormous price tag on the cover. The next day I returned the book with the nasty sticker glue to Costco and the woman accidentally reimbursed for the wrong item, giving me ten dollars too much. I walked away from the counter with the extra ten dollars, but then a deep feeling of guilt overcame me and I promptly returned to the counter to correct the cashier’s mistake.
One of the hardest parts of my current job as a high school teacher is choosing to do the right thing. Not only because the kids often make idiotic choices, but more importantly because many adults in the school system would rather sweep a problem under the rug or take an unethical approach to a dilemma, rather than deal with an irate parent or have to enforce consequences.
In college, I had a health teacher who literally gave out the answers to the tests before we took them. This was a class designed for athletes, taught by one of the college’s football coaches. I can’t say I learned much in the class, except the unsettling fact that favoritism and nepotism are very real and sometimes brains have nothing over brawn, even in the educational system where brains should be the, um, point. Sadly, I’ve discovered that high school is the same way. Integrity is often overruled by convenience, especially among some adults who find winning more important than playing fairly. I have no other way to describe these adults than this: pathetic.
Several of my best students know about this website because I would often post at late night robotics meetings or during class when my teacher aides were hovering around my desk. These are the kids nobody fights for. Nobody needs to because good integrity does not need to be defended. They do what’s right even when it is not popular. Why is it that some of their supposed adult role models are still hung-up on what’s popular, even if it is not right?
It is a high school tradition for the graduating students to leave “Senior Wills” or advice and memories to their friends and teachers. This didn’t get done this year, for whatever reason, but If I were doing a Senior Will, this is what I would say to my kids, the ones who do the right thing despite any popularity penalty:
Confucius said, “to know what is right and not do it is the worst cowardice.” May you never be cowardly, may you always be honorable, and may Karma, if it exists, carry only good things back around to you.
I hope that, in the middle of this huge popularity contest called life, they can hear me.