At five years of age, I had a best friend. Jennifer lived at the end of my block and during the summer months, I played with her nearly every day. We would bike around the neighborhood and look for fun and new adventures. Yes, I lived “back then,” when it was considered safe and normal for a child to be outside without an adult. I remember finding a lost dog in the neighborhood that we decided we would keep. I know that sounds ridiculous, but come on, we were young! We went door to door asking people for dog food. At one house, a lady answered and said, “Hey! That looks like my neighbor’s dog!” Thus ending our dream of pet ownership.
The story I really want to share is about my road to honesty. I’m not perfect, but in general, I consider myself truthful and try to live my life with integrity. As a young girl, however, I was more interested in pretty things than truthfulness. Jennifer and I were spending the day together and noticed a neighbor, Mrs. Orr, having a garage sale. The details are a blur, but we went to the garage sale and walked away with nail polish that we hadn’t paid for. Yes, we were thieves. We went behind Jennifer’s house and painted our nails and remarked at how beautiful and grown up we were. Later in the day, when I returned home, my mom remarked, “Look at those nails!” With those four words, my heart sank and I had an ache in the pit of my stomach that wouldn’t stop. I immediately broke down in tears and told my mom the sordid truth: I had stolen from Mrs. Orr’s garage sale. She was not sympathetic. She walked me down the street; I cried the entire way. When we got to Mrs. Orr’s house, my mom forced me to confess to her what I had done. To my surprise, Mrs. Orr was kind, understanding, and encouraged me to keep the nail polish. Of course, I couldn’t; I couldn’t bear the idea of painting my nails for years after that incident.
When I reflect on that event, I consider that my mom expected me to do the right thing and was disappointed when I didn’t. She gave me consequences so I wouldn’t make the same mistake again. Looking back I am grateful for her steadfastness in the idea of right and wrong; she was absolutely unwavering. When I’m faced with a decision that may put my integrity in question, I always think about the nail polish. Such a little item, but the act of dishonoring my integrity matters regardless of how big or small the error.