Late this afternoon, I did something I rarely do here in Seattle… I ordered takeout.
(I rarely eat out here since the NYC food experience spoiled me.)
To order the takeout, I used an app on my phone, and chose to pay cash at the time of pick up.
Twenty minutes after ordering, I arrived at the restaurant. Along with a couple who also ordered takeout, I walked up to the counter and let the hostess know I was there.
The hostess briefly disappeared to the kitchen and returned with a bag of food for each of us.
She handed me my bag, offered a friendly good-bye “thank you”, and made her way to the cash register to charge the couple for their order.
It was clear she thought I’d paid at the time I placed the order. In fact, her unquestioning confidence briefly made me wonder if I actually had.
Standing there for a moment, I retraced my actions, and reconfirmed I still had yet to pay.
That meant I could easily walk out with a free meal.
Yet, I stood there in the restaurant.
Then for three minutes I waited, just so I could hand the hostess money she didn’t know she was supposed to take.
Why pay when I could save myself $11 without any effort?
Doing the right thing
Simply put, at the most basic level, because “it’s the right thing to do.”
(That and the fact that it felt good to do. Plus, the hostess and I got a nice laugh out of it, and had a positive human connection — worthwhile things on their own.)
Really though, what does “it’s the right thing to do” even mean, and why care about it?
Doing the right thing is often shorthand for taking an action that may not seem to offer us much benefit. It’s viewed as doing something to fit a moral and societal norm — though in reality it may not be typically followed.
In reality, there is a lot more to it.
“Doing the right thing” is a shorthand way to remember that our actions hold consequences — ones we may be unaware of — and that our interactions matter.
Each choice we make and action we take yields consequences.
Looking briefly at this takeout situation consider some possible consequences of me walking out with my “free” food.
If the restaurant realized at some point that the order wasn’t paid for:
- It could be troublesome for me since I ordered it through an app tied to my name. Sure, they likely wouldn’t come after me, however, it might be unpleasant to go back to that restaurant later.
- It could ruin that hostess’, or another staff’s day. What if the boss realizes the order wasn’t paid for and blames a staff member for the problem even if the app was at fault? What if that leads them to be miserable, impacting their work and interactions with customers? Then on top of that, what if that person is in a probationary period and this leads them to lose their job?
If the restaurant never realized my order was unpaid:
- What if this scenario happens frequently due to an issue with the app not properly specifying the payment status? That will hurt the business, which hurts the owners, employees, and their families, and in the end harms the neighborhood.
- Ultimately, I still would know I walked out with food I didn’t pay for. I’d know it wasn’t an honest trade, and leaving me with an unbalanced feeling inside. (Even if it is small, that type of unbalance adds up in unexpected ways.) Plus, what if others did something similar to me? How would I want them to respond if say I dropped $10 while I was in line in front of them?
While these are fairly broad, the possible unseen consequences are numerous, and potentially far reaching.
The truth of it…
The truth of it is, small things add up.
Each of us can work to add up positive things or negative things.
By “doing the right thing”, we do right to ourselves and others. We commit actions that impact the world in positive ways, and those build upon each other.
Through those small actions, the ones that can be cast aside as not mattering, we build a better life for ourselves and others.
That’s why “doing the right thing” matters.
It isn’t because the “norms” of society said so, it’s because what we do in life has impacts on life.
Here’s the thing
This isn’t about lecturing you to do the right thing.
To the contrary, I’m sure you already do the right thing.
That’s why I’m pointing out that “doing the right thing” matters. It makes a difference.
So, take a moment to remember all those little things you are doing.
Consider the ones that are easily missed by others.
Bring to mind the actions others may consider meaningless and not worthwhile — like taking the extra effort to pay for a meal you could get away with for free.
(You don’t have to recall specifics, just remind yourself of your general approach.)
Remember your actions make a difference in the lives of others, often more than you realize.
They also make a difference in your own life, and in the bigger picture of the world.
Those small actions of doing the right thing make the world a better place.
More than the big todos, flashy actions, well-known or publicized deeds, your everyday run-of-the-mill small actions are what really make the difference.
Recognize that you make the world better.
Do the right thing, not because it is a societal norm, but because it is the best thing for yourself and for others.
Appreciate all the “right things” you’ve done, and understand they make the world a better place. Know that you make the world a better place.
It’s your small actions that add up to the bigger picture.
Actions to take:
- Do the right thing for yourself and others.
- Recognize that you make a positive difference in the world through small everyday actions.
Fellow Journeyer @ BigSkyRise
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