I'm the kind of person who skips to the conversation when reading a book.
At one point in my life, I sold admission to a tourist attraction, a very pricey tourist attraction.
Today it costs close to $20 for adult tickets. Children, aged 7 – 12, are $7, and under age 7 gets in free. Thirty years ago I don’t remember what it cost, but I knew it was steep for the time. However, those children under the age of 7 were free back then, too.
Using today’s prices, my conversations sometimes went something like this:
Me: That will be $54, please.
Tourist: But it’s just the four of us. We don’t plan on staying long.
Me: I know. I’m sorry. But for two adults and two children, that’s what it costs. You can come and go during the day. If you want to leave and come back, you’re allowed to do that.
Tourist: It says here that kids are free.
Me: Children under the age of 7 are free.
Tourist: Johnny here is only 6.
Johnny: No, Daddy, I’m 8.
Tourist (through clenched teeth): No, Johnny, you’re 6!
Johnny: I’m 8. Remember? I had my birthday last week.
Tourist (to me): He’s a little confused. He likes to pretend he’s older than he really is. He’s only 6.
Me: Okay, well, that will be $47 dollars then. Will that be cash or credit?
Tourist (pulling a $50 bill out of a fat wallet): Cash.
I count the change back, and can still hear Johnny, who has been pulled off to the side.
Johnny: Mommy, tell Daddy how old I am. He thinks I’m only 6.
I heard conversations like that countless times, and each time I marveled at the small amount of money for which people were willing to sell their integrity.
Now, as a parent with a large family, I sort of understand. Sort of, but not really. More important than any attraction we go to see are the values I want to impart to my children. Honesty is at the top of the list.
When I am tempted to be deceitful, I think about the cost. Is my integrity worth only $7? Or $15? Or $200?
What is the price of my integrity?
I always decide that it’s not for sale.
And yet, I am not honest about my identity. Do you see the quandary a pen name causes?