Tuesday, September 17, 2013

When Nobody Will Ever Know the Difference

For the second time in a week, I was standing at the checkout counter of the dentist office.  Instead of two children full of pent-up energy, this time, all three were with me.  A deep sigh escaped my chest as I looked at my watch.  It was nearing 5:00 and I wanted nothing more than to drive home before the rush hour traffic hit. 

There I stood with my wallet open, credit card in my hand, waiting on the lady at the counter who seemed to be in no rush.   She punched in all the appropriate codes while I listened to the familiar click of her computer keys and the giggle of joyous play taking place just around the corner.  Behind me, the twins giggled and danced in circles, only stopping when I bent forward my head and shot them "the look."  Even my oldest was jittery and kept bouncing his new goldfish ball from the treasure chest.  Without fail, he would not quite catch the rubber sphere and stumbled into a sea of legs to track it down.

After what seemed like an eternity, the brunette handed me a piece of paper hot off the printer.  "Thank you," she said.  "You don't owe anything today."

The punch to my gut was instant.  Yes, I did.  While the dental discount program we are a part of covers the exam, x-rays, and bite wings, I knew it didn't cover Wyatt's fluoride treatment.  I had just paid for the twins' fluoride paint job the previous Friday.  Today, I should be paying another $25 for my oldest son.

A few seconds passed while I reviewed the statement.  Everything checked out right, but that initial punch was slowly transforming into a nauseous feeling, the kind I always get when I know something is wrong but also know I'm not legally bound to correct someone's mistake.  I know I have a choice to make--do the ethical thing or do the legal thing.

In those times, it's like I have a little devil sitting on my right shoulder.  "No one will ever know," he grins.  "It's their fault, not yours.  It's their mistake. Plus, you could really use the extra cash.  Maybe this is just God's way of giving it to you."

I want to just walk away.  I really do.  But I know myself well enough to know that nauseous feeling won't leave me until I set things right.  I'd experienced the same feeling months earlier when the cashier at Hobby Lobby forgot to type in an extra zero when ringing up a price.  I knew then that I'd never be able to enjoy that furniture if I didn't correct her mistake.  Every time I saw it in my house, I'd remember that I'd cheated the store...even if it was their mistake.

I slid the paper back across the counter to her.  "No," I said.  "I owe you for the fluoride treatment.  I paid for it last week for my twins, so I know I owe you today, too."

Another woman in the background heard me and instantly approached the counter.  Apparently, "I owe you more money than you're charging" isn't a concept she's heard much.  The brunette kept clicking, frowning, and scrolling down her computer screen as the other woman leaned over her shoulder and gave directions that sounded more like code than English. 

Finally, the woman in charge looked up and said, "No. You don't owe us.  In the program, the treatment is included free of charge for children under the age of 14.  We owe you.  Can we put the difference back on your card?"

Minutes later, I left the office $51 richer than when I went in.  More importantly, I felt a soul sweetness of peace that spread through all my limbs and made me feel almost weightless.  I couldn't help but smile as I prayed a quick word of thanks for the Spirit prompting me to do what I knew to be right.

Had I chosen to not correct her "mistake," it would likely have never been uncovered, and I would have missed that financial blessing.  Yet, even if the coding mistake later were uncovered and I were refunded the money, I still would have missed out on the soul blessing.

Doing the right thing is always worth it, but God rarely shows us just how "worth it" our morally upright actions are, at least not in such a literal dollars and sense way.  I am thankful that sometimes, He gives me a glimpse of the war going on invisible around me and the difference my one action can make in my life and in the lives of others.

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE this! Such a simple, tangible lesson (and reward!) for hearing and heeding that still small voice. I'm sorry yours makes you nauseous, though. Mine makes me feel like elephants stampeding in my stomach and heart :) I think it's a blessing that we have it, though!