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Ken Schroeder

Did you really give that back?

I always count my change while I’m still in line at the gas station or fast food place or wherever. Today when I did it, I found the cashier gave me an extra dollar, so I gave it back to her. The guy behind me looked at me like I was insane as I walked out the door.

That happens a lot these days; the cashier hands me too much money, and I give it back (which makes me worry about how well they teach math these days, but that’s another day) to the amazement of those around me.

Apparently, honesty is not in vogue these days, and that worries me.

“It was only a dollar. Why would you give it back? They’ll never miss it.” I hear that a lot.

But someone will find out, and the cashier gets in trouble. But there’s a more important reason why I give it back.

It’s simply the right thing to do.

These days, money is tight for everyone; You, me, the corner grocer, the state of Illinois (although that one’s their fault) and everyone else outside the 1 percent. I’ll probably miss the dollar a lot more than British Petroleum will, but that’s not the point. Keeping the money would be dishonest; you’re pretty much stealing from someone else. Not only would I not want someone to do that to me, I don’t feel right doing it to someone else.

Yet we’re always surprised when someone turns in money they found. In the news today, a homeless man who returned a wallet full of money he found in a trash bin is receiving contributions from all over the country, and a local hotel gave him $500 and a place to stay through Thanksgiving. I definitely applaud him for turning it in, and I especially recognize the people sending him donations, but I have to wonder when the act of returning money to someone who lost it became a national news story.

We now expect dishonesty from other people. That’s the message I get from this, and it’s frightening.

We’ve gotten used to politicians telling their side of the truth. People wonder why this is true, and the thing to remember is most politicians in major offices started out as lawyers. I’m not saying lawyers lie, but they have to be very creative with the truth sometimes to win their case. That definitely carries over into politics.

While there’s a quote often attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, it’s really a summary of a longer passage Mahatma Gandhi once said: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” If you’re looking for more honesty and respect in the world, you have to show it.

So, the next time you pay with cash and the person behind the counter gives you too much change, give it back. True, no one is likely to hold a parade for you because of it, but it becomes an occurrence that snowballs the more it happens, and the feeling of goodwill lasts quite a while.

Now, if only we could teach the Illinois government basic math ...

Shaw Media Staff Writer Ken Schroeder can be reached at kschroeder@putnamcountyrecord.com.