Is it Conscience or is it Conscious? Most people walking around are conscious but not all of those walking around have a conscience.

A fellow I know used to say, “An ounce of conscience and a dose of morality will cost you a lot of money in a lifetime.”

In Sandy Point, when I was a kid, I thought little of either of these words. They had little usage in day to day activities. What I came accustomed to was that people believed that a man’s word is his bond; that sort of thing. You can depend on what he/she tells you. It was a handshake agreement.

It probably never was really that way in the real world but it was in the world I knew.  A small circle and simple people doing the right thing: most of the time.

A few days ago I drove to Calhoun and had lunch with an old business acquaintance and still friend. We ate at a Chinese restaurant and when we were ready to go, being in the Daddy Warbucks frame of mind, I picked up the check and handed it to the man at the cash register with a $50 bill as I went to powder my nose. (Don’t you love that expression?) The bill was $24.49.

I came back from the men’s room and the man handed me my change and I walked back to the table intent on leaving a tip, although in the cafeteria no one had done much for us. As I looked at the money in my hand, I had about $45; far more than I should have had after deducting the $24.49.

I went back and handed the man the money and the receipt. He spoke far better Mandarin than English but he understood the universal language: money. He quickly saw his mistake and gave me the correct change. When I went back to the table my friend commented, “Not many people would have done that.”

It did not occur to me to do otherwise. But I hope my friend was wrong. I would like to think most people would do the right thing. I don’t know. I know some would probably not even have looked at the change and would not have caught the mistake. I know, too, that some would have thought, “Tough.”

I called on customers all over Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and Florida over the years. Many were the Mom and Pop variety even though some were Mom and Daughter, Father and Son, etc. One nice customer had built his business from a saw mill to a home center in a town in South Georgia. His was one of the successful businesses in the area and he had developed a nice decorating center, including carpet and flooring. He had a unique fellow running the business and his nickname was Scrappy. That is as much as I will disclose about this account’s identity.

The owner was known to everyone in town and all of the large farmers in the area did business there in one way or another. That brought in a lot of business for Scrappy’s department and he had decorators working in the very nice section of the store. The business had a stellar reputation and paid their bills!

One day, one of the big farmers and his wife came in and set up an appointment for Scrappy to come measure for new carpet. They picked out a style they wanted and it was ordered and the installation was done.

Scrappy called to check with the farmer and make sure they were happy. He got an unexpected reply: NO! The farmer said the wrong carpet had been installed and he was not paying for the almost $4000 bill.

Scrappy got the work order, the carpet sample and rushed out to the man’s house. Mistakes happen. Maybe the carpet mill shipped the wrong carpet.

When he compared the sample to the carpet on the floor, they matched perfectly. The man insisted it was not what he wanted and he would not pay them for it.

When Scrappy went back to the owner (his boss) and told the story, Scrappy wanted to seek legal remedies to collect but the owner said no. The owner did not want to get into a messy situation with one of the areas leading citizens, even though the man was clearly out to cheat them.

Months went by and the man never paid and Scrappy never saw him in the store again until one day he got a call. It was the farmer on the phone.

The farmer told Scrappy who he was and asked how much the bill for the carpet was that he had never paid. Scrappy told him he would need to look it up and call him back.

“I am not where you can call me easily, I’ll hold on. Get the amount and add whatever interest you would normally charge.” Scrappy said he would not need to pay any interest, but the man insisted.

Scrappy gave him the amount with some interest added. The farmer said, “You’ll have the money tomorrow.”

Scrappy had to ask, “Why did you decide to pay this now?”

The man replied, “I am in the intensive care unit at the Phoebe Putney Hospital in Albany. I had a heart attack and almost died. The whole time I’ve been here hooked up to these machines, all I could think of was that I had beaten your company out of that money. I knew I could not die owing you that money.”

The man had experienced more than a heart attack; He had been attacked by that ounce of conscience. It can cost you a lot of money in a lifetime. But, “What will it profit a man…….?” You probably know the rest.

When we look at the leadership, I use that word for lack of another, of our country, I see no conscience left. It has been stripped away to satisfy the need for votes and party affiliations. Money has scoured away the last remnants of conscience and remorse and left a void as big as the Grand Canyon. They can’t be trusted and would not been welcome in Sandy Point in the old days. They would have been called scoundrels, or worse.

Abraham asked “If I can find 50 righteous men…..?” Wouldn’t it be nice to find one in politics today, with a conscience?

©HJC 2016







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