Last updated: September 06. 2013 3:27PM - 809 Views
Sheila A. Mathews Guest Columnist

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Four football players of William Patterson University in Wayne, N.J., made national headlines last week, but not in the typical manner. The four young men are being lauded from coast to coast not for having committed a violent crime, but for their honesty.

The four young men entered a store unaware that it was not open for business, as due to a malfunction, the door had failed to lock.

They sought out the merchandise they needed and approached the register, where they waited and eventually called out for employee assistance. Upon realizing they were alone in the store, the young men did something that has apparently shocked the nation – they calculated their total purchase price, including sales tax, and left it on the store’s front counter.

The store’s owners made the incident public and sought out the identities of the young men, who had behaved nobly before attending the day’s football practice. After learning their names, he rewarded their actions by presenting them with gift certificates to his business.

While I applaud the honesty displayed by these young men, I cannot help but shake my head in disbelief, as well. Have we, as a nation, become so accustomed to hearing reports of only the tragedies in life that we feel it necessary to make celebrities of those who simply do the right thing?

So often, everyday life does seem to be inundated by the most horrible of incidents – children who are unloved and abused; those who would rather take from others rather than earn for themselves; individuals who embrace corruption rather than strive for nobility – whether on the local, state, national or international level, the incidents seem never-ending.

There is a reason every newspaper and media outlet carries these reports. The reality is that we do live in troubling times. None of us need look very far from our homes, places of business or children’s schools to witness wrongdoing. Without doubt, it is there.

However, the good in life is also ever present. Those who choose to live their lives with integrity are also amongst us. They take pride in giving an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay; they raise children with the understanding of right and wrong; they seek opportunities to make a better life for themselves and in turn, the community they call home; they commit time and effort in volunteerism to help others in need; and they do the little unseen things in life that, despite the absence of national news crews, make a difference in someone else’s life.

This isn’t about the legislation of morality. Personally, I will always oppose the effort of any governmental entity or religious institution’s attempt to legislate such, but we remain a society of law and order. The opposite would be an anarchistic world where each is free to do whatever they so desire, regardless of their action’s impact on others, and that is certainly not a culture in which I would choose to exist.

That being said, come on, folks – we all should have a basic understanding of right and wrong, and we must individually and collectively commit to accepting responsibility for our actions and refuse to contribute to the seemingly constant influx of bad news. We must all choose to live our lives in such a manner that the good truly will outweigh the bad. When that day comes, stories such as this week’s report of four honest college students will never make the local news, much less national headlines.

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