No. 532



Several years ago I heard a story about a man named Joe who decided to take his preacher fishing. Joe loved to fish and knew that his preacher had been under a lot of stress lately and it would be good for the two of them to get away for the day. Early the next morning Joe picked his preacher up at his house, and before long they were fishing. After a few minutes this preacher hooked into what had to be a 10-pound bass, the kind that will pull your boat along, even without a motor. At this point the fight was on. He fought that fish for what must have been 15 or 20 minutes and finally got him up to the edge of the boat ready to land him. At this point the big bass made one last lunge and broke his line. When this happened it made this preacher so mad that he threw his rod down in the middle of the boat, looked at his friend and said, "Joe, one of us ought to say something."
This is an old story, and you have probably heard it before, but it seemed to be a good way to introduce a topic where both of us, you and me, ought to say something. I'm talking about the destructive behavior of an increasing number of our citizens who are taking money and other objects that do not belong to them and claiming them as their own. There is another word for this in our language and it's called stealing. We have always had people in our society who have "sticky fingers," but apparently it's getting much worse, and the increasing cost is a matter that must be dealt with if we are to have law and order and maintain a civil society.
What motivated me to share these thoughts is a conversation I had recently with the marketing director of one of our largest banks. She told me she had been in banking for more than 20 years, but in the past two years she had seen more cases of fraud than in the other 18 years put together. She said her bank had to hire a full-time employee just to deal with the problem of fraud, which comes in many different forms. The bottom line is that more and more people are dishonest, have no ethics or morals, and they are willing to run the risk of getting caught and going to jail or prison.
As you well know, it's not just bank fraud that's getting worse. Shoplifting is a major problem that costs American business billions of dollars each year and is simply passed on to the consumer. Add to that employee theft, identity theft and simple looting, like we saw after two major hurricanes hit the Gulf Coast.
Here are a few questions that we would all do well to ponder. Why are more and more of our citizens resorting to stealing? Is it because there is a breakdown of moral and ethical character in our society? Is it something we should be concerned about? Is it possible that many people, especially young people, are stealing without being made aware that what they are doing is stealing? What can we do to put an end to it?
Some time back, at my printer's, I picked up an "Employee Handbook" developed by a major restaurant chain that may give us some insights. In one section it states, "So there can be no misunderstanding, the following is a list of actions that constitute "Stealing." 1. TAKING MONEY Ñ Taking money from the register or failure to put all cash into the register É constitutes stealing. 2. FREE FOOD Ñ Giving away any item for which (name of restaurant) should receive payment in full É constitutes stealing. 3. UNDER RINGING Ñ Failure to ring up on the register the full amount that (name of restaurant) should receive for any and all items given out É constitutes stealing. 4. FOOD OUT REAR Ñ Taking any food or paper or other items out the 'rear' of the store É constitutes stealing."
Now is that clear? The saddest thing of all is that people who steal are really stealing opportunity from themselves. Regardless of whether or not they get caught, that marvelous mind between their ears knows and can see what they are doing. We must teach that.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)