Monday, July 12, 2010
Seeds of Dishonesty
Let me tell you a story.
On weekends throughout my youth and adolescence, my father would take my brother and me to work with him on weekends, I suppose it gave my mother some freedom to run errands with my kid sister, maybe just to sleep. My Dad worked at a propane company in a rural area that provided fuel via bulk delivery to farm houses and other areas where natural gas lines did not run, and more importantly to the large auto factories and other industrial operators who utilized tow motors. On weekends my brother and I made 75 cents an hour doing yard work in and around this huge gravel yard, and later cutting the grass in and around the business office. As we got older we cleaned and painted propane cylinders each summer, eventually driving out to residences in the region to paint the large propane tanks that looked like WWII bombs on concrete blocks next to farm houses.
Frequently, customers would drive into the yard on these weekends to refill their 20 lb. propane tanks (I think these containers are called "bottles" in some places) for campers, or the early versions of the modern outdoor gas grills. My Father who was by then a senior employee of this company would refill these tanks and pocket the proceeds: in those years $5 or $6 bucks. I'm sure when my brother and I realized he was pocketing this money we looked quizzically at him. I say this because I remember him making a point of explaining that he took this money that properly belonged to his employer because (1 the propane could not be metered and so much of it was discharged into the air during the transfer of it into consumer containment that "it didn't matter, if he took some of it," (2 the extra money paid for shoes and other necessities of our then growing family, (3 all the guys did it.
Think about what my Dad was saying to his young boys, by what he did? My Dad was saying he stole money from his employer and was justified if you couldn't get caught, he was saying it was my brother and my fault and the fault of my brothers and sisters who needed shoes, and it's ok to steal if everyone does it. Now here's the kicker, he insisted he was an honest man, I believed he was an honest man. In fact until my sisters came forward to tell their siblings of his crimes against them, I'm not sure I ever gave it second thought. There are such unfortunates! Am I stupid? Blind? Corrupt? Yep. At least I was.
It might sound like I'm blaming my Father for being dishonest. I'm not. I'm an adult, I made adult decisions that are playing out in the consequences of my life. Alcoholism, depression, legal and career disasters in my life are directly attributable to dishonesty as it played out over my lifetime. You get away with nothing. Absolutely nothing.
I want to get off this carousel. I don't want dishonesty to endlessly play out in the lives of my children and my grandchldren. This "character defect" is one that I am entirely ready to have lifted from me.