I played little league baseball for a long time. Maybe it feels longer because I played so much baseball… Every Spring, every Summer. I love the game of baseball, and I know it is because of those years practicing for hours and hours, learning as much as I could about being a part of a team and doing what I had to to make the tournament team every year. You know, the tournament team… The ones you see on tv playing in the Little League World Series every year? I was always envious of those guys… I mean, c’mon, school has clearly started by the time they make it to the big tournament. (We never quite made it out of the state of Georgia.)
Anyways, I digress. The point is, I love baseball and I always have. I always will, although now I think it may be time to make the permanent switch to softball. With all of those hours spent on the field and all my love for the sport, it should come as no surprise that I first learned the importance of integrity at the ball park.
You’re probably thinking this has something to do with an umpire… I was probably up to bat and was sent to first for being hit by a pitch and I turned around and said, “No sir, I appreciate the gesture, but the ball just looked like it hit me. I would prefer to stay in the batter’s box and take my full at bat.”
Well, not quite. I was at the concession stand… Either before, after, or in between games. I paid $1.00 for something that was $.75 (Big League Chew or something like that) and I got $.75 in change in return. Ah yes, pay day! That’s almost a fifth of a weekly allowance, right? Well, no, instead as I walked away I counted my change and thought in my very analytical and mathematical brain of mine… “That’s too much change. I could get a whole ‘nother bag of Big League Chew with this. But it’s not mine. Hmmmm… I should go give it back.” And I did. I went right back up to the window and I said, “Miss, I think you gave me too much change. I paid you $1.00 and you gave me $.75 when you should have given me $.25.”
And to my surprise, she gave a little chuckle, thanked me for my honesty and told me I could keep it as a reward for being so responsible.
Now lets not get this confused. 1) Honesty is telling the truth, while integrity is doing the right thing. 2) I didn’t think of myself as having integrity at the time, I was just following my gut instinct (and guilty conscience). 3) Life doesn’t give immediate rewards for practicing integrity every day.
However, looking back on the incident, I realize now how important it was in molding my young mind and also in paralleling the reality of life. Integrity pays off. That inkling I had that the money should be returned was a budding value system. It was the foundation for a concept that I hold near and dear today. Integrity matters in this life and this time in the world. We need leaders willing not just to be “honest” but to show an unwavering sense of integrity.
You may always not get your Big League Chew for 1/3 of the regular price, but you will live a life of fulfillment and one without regret.
Thank you, volunteer mom from Murphey Candler Park ca. 1997. You taught me a great lesson that day.