There Are Two Kinds of People 736.4

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who think there are two kinds of people in the world and those who think those who think there are two kinds of people in the world are self-righteous jerks.

A listener called me to task concerning a story about a man who told his son there are two kinds of people: those who return their shopping carts and those who don’t.

His first point was that it’s dangerous and foolish to use simplistic categorizations. On this I have to agree, although I didn’t think the father who divided the world into two categories was being literal. I think he was making the point that we all have endless choices – either to do the right thing instinctively and consistently or to join those who find excuses not to. The original story came from a book Hugs for Dad by John William Smith. I don’t know if it’s literally true or not, but it’s a powerful parable.

His second point was that he objected to the implication that anyone who doesn’t return shopping carts is falling short on any scale of virtue. “As long as markets pay union wages and benefits to employees to collect these carts,” he said, “I shouldn’t reduce the amount of their work.”

This rationale ignores the story’s main message: Be considerate, clean up after yourself, and make life easier, not harder, for the next guy. Under his analysis, we help custodians and housekeepers by making a mess.

I don’t think I was a bad person when I didn’t return shopping carts, but I think I’m a little bit better now that I do. You see, there are two kinds of people in the world: those who want to be better and those who don’t.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

Comments 3

  1. ….and because of reading that parable, I return shopping carts (especially in front of my children). Not because I want to please Michael, or anyone else. Because, It is a reminder that I can be a better person, and hopefully father. (that said, I still have a ways to go).

  2. Using the listener’s logic, I should not clean up my camp site, since they have people who get paid to maintain the parks. And I should feel fine in leaving empty pizza boxes and beer cans strewn around my hotel room, since there are maids to clean it up. And forget ever carrying any of my trash out of a movie theater or sports stadium; it’s a good way to remind the servants that royalty sat in my seat.
    I have always returned my shopping cart, and even scooped up any I can along the way and return those too. Not because I am the most wonderful man that ever lived; I do it because I am working to be the man my parents raised me to be.

  3. You are right to point out that the moral of the story is to leave the world a better place and to try and clean up after yourself. The shopping cart is an example and not the standard of morality. So let’s not get miss the point by taking a “simplistic characterization” out of context.
    So here is a cheer to those who take care of themselves and others, who clean up after themselves, and who get things right. If you fail to clean up after yourself because you are in the middle of something more important (let’s say making a mess in surgery to save a life), let’s extend some grace rather than judgement. But if are just being insensitive and need to wake up, well smelling salts might be required. Sometimes those salts come in a package of words that hit the heart.

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