The Honor System

A lot of places I frequent have these boxes labeled “candy for charity.” The idea is you put in your quarter or whatever amount and take a piece of the candy in the box. While I typically see them on counters manned and lightly supervised by a business employee, occasionally the boxes are left somewhere else in a higher traffic but mostly unsupervised area of the business.

Such is the case in a restaurant M and I were in earlier today.

Now, in general I am rather cynical about these charitable efforts; I do not actually believe any of those funds make it to a worthwhile charity. But I am not utilizing a business with intent to judge them on their pseudo-philanthropic endeavors. It’s just one of those things I tend to notice in the places I go, probably because I am still in vast, lifelong sugar withdrawal and my eye is always going to be drawn to candy, even candy I do not particularly want to eat. Once an addict, always an addict.

Anyway, M and I were eating our meal and chatting about our day. You know, usual stuff. This mom and 2 young children came in with an elderly couple that were probably her parents. Mom went up to the counter to order, elderly folks took the booth right behind us. Little boy, probably about 4, dawdled at a display about 10 yards away and right within my line of sight. He had discovered the charitable candy box. As I casually observed he carefully took out several suckers and pieces of candy, unwrapped at least 2 of them, put them into his mouth and then those back into the box (I know – totally gross!), and then walked away with 3 suckers in his hands.

While I could get extraordinarily distracted by the poor parental supervision going on there, I will give that a pass this time. The other child with them was a toddler being carried by grandpa when they walked in, and just as brother sat down at the table with his booty toddler began talking and screeching loudly. Perhaps he wanted his share of what older brother suddenly had? I was curious as to how mom and grandparents would react to this sudden appearance of several suckers, right before dinner.

Next I know grandpa is approaching the candy box and taking several pieces from it, without depositing the donation for the candy. They were speaking in a foreign tongue, so perhaps it’s a cultural thing they did not understand, but I was disappointed. I tend to obey rules and most social conventions that make sense to me, and while I believe the owners of such establishments are likely very lightly padding their own pockets with the candy for charity scam, I do not know that with any certainty. It’s the context of a child being allowed to casually take something that is not provided as a customer courtesy, and the adult in the party participating in this behavior as well. That little boy may not grow up into a spoiled, entitled brat who has zero respect for boundaries or other people’s things, but in principle observing the behaviors disturbed me.

It just seems wrong.

I can justify this in my own head to a degree – the business owner leaves a box of candy unsupervised and within reach of children. Mom is busy, grandparents are obviously not from around here and may not even read english.

It just seems wrong. It is wrong.

Wrong for mom not to investigate where the ill-gotten sugar came from and either make the child return it, or for the stuff in the box that was way past that point, pay for it. Wrong not to explain the process to grandpa if there is a cultural/communication issue, or to quietly pay for his pilfered sweets as well.

In my mind it seems so very black and white, and to probably everyone else it seems like such a small cakes, what-does-it-matter type of event. Maybe it is small cakes. Maybe this is appropriate karma. Maybe it doesn’t matter at all.

Except to someone like me, who is honest and desires others to try to be honest as well. To honor the honor system when it is in play. To teach children it is not appropriate to take things that are not offered to them as a courtesy.

Because maybe, in the great big bigger picture, it is the small cakes events that matter most.

One thought on “The Honor System

  1. Totally agree with you. I’ve never seen that happen but it would bother me in exactly the same way. And hey, I want a York peppermint patty like nobody’s business now. Thanks. LOL

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