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Do the right thing, even when no one is watching

by Melanie Nicholas

The kids and I were on a short trip this week, enjoying a little summertime rest and relaxation while The Hubs was working. We were driving along, when, being the law abiding citizen and granny driver that I am, I used my right turn signal to change lanes. Instead of the slow, methodical tick, pause, tick, pause noise of my indicator, I got the rapid fire ticktickticktick sound the car makes when it needs a new blinker fuse.

Great, I thought to myself. On the road with the kids, and I could no more fix this on my own than I could make a pavlova or light the pilot light on the water heater. Now, if I were alone, I would throw caution to the wind and risk a failure to signal ticket and make The Hubs take care of it when I got home. But with the babies in the car, best to be safe and broadcast my intentions when on the highway.

Using the mighty power of Google, I was able to navigate to a nearby auto repair shop. We went in and explained the problem. In just a few minutes, the mechanic got us all taken care of, and we were on our way. Once we were back to the car, I got the kids in and opened my door to climb inside. At that exact second, a giant, hot blast of wind hit that door and flung it wide. So wide, that it smacked right into the little economy car parked next to me.

You can guess the string of expletives that bounced around in my head. I always try to be careful with the doors, they are heavy and I loathe a door ding when I find one on my own car. Made worse because I had just finished getting onto Little Son at lunch because he wasn’t watching his door well enough and nearly hit a car. I slowly rolled the tinted front window down, hoping I wouldn’t see a ding. And I didn’t. Instead, I saw a clear imprint of my door’s edge, smudged down the other car. A six inch long smudge.

I am getting  door guard on my next urban assault vehicle!

I sighed. Rested my head on the steering wheel. From the back, Bodacious yelled, “drive!” Little Son, ever the conscience in the group, said, “That wouldn’t be right.” I kept my mouth shut, then looked up and around. I didn’t see anyone. And y’all, I am going to admit this right here and right now. I really, really thought about backing out of that space and getting back on the road. But only for the briefest, briefest moment. I swear! Then I got out of the car for a closer look. It was well-used car, all scratched up around the door handles and a long gouge running horizon

tally across the driver and passenger side doors. I took one more look around, still didn’t see anyone. And so, like any good mother, I licked my thumb and proceeded to rub at that smudge like my life – or a $500 deductible – depended on it.

And you know what? It worked! Sort of. But there were still a few inches of smudge visible. I told the kids I needed to get the manager and locked them into the car. I trudged into the office, cursing my luck. Hating to think about explaining this to The Hubs. I am hard on cars. But when the manager came out and examined the smudge he had good news. “The same thing happened to my wife last week. I can buff this right out, don’t you worry!”

When I got back into the car, I told the kids our good fortune. But I also wanted to capitalize on an amazing teachable moment. Without making Bodacious feel bad for having my same flight instincts.

In my instant replay, I said, “Thank you both for being so patient and waiting in the car. I feel really silly for letting go of the door because I know accidents can happen that way. I am also really glad the door can be fixed and grateful for this man’s offer of kindness to fix it without charging me.”

What I actually said was, “Thank you sweet baby Jesus, we can still afford to go get snow cones and I don’t have to tell your dad about any of this!”

But don’t worry, I didn’t stop there.

“I also want you both to remember this for your whole lives. Always do the right thing, even when no one is watching.” I told them that sometimes, that would cost them. Might be money, a job or even a friend. But that I truly believed what you put into the world – goodness and kindness, or meanness and ugliness – always comes back to you. Doing right makes you feel right.

I need more right. There has been so much meanness in the world lately. I watch the news, read the papers, the endless negative Facebook postings. It seems overwhelming, like there isn’t nearly enough good to go around anymore. But I am working really hard to consume less media and not give in to these feelings of despair. I am focusing on navigating my little corner of the map, being an example for my children. And hoping that for every good action, kind word or sweet thought, that a difference is made in my heart and my world.

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