COMMENTARY 787.2: Shopping Carts and Rationalizations

When we think about character, we tend to think about big things like taking risks, acting with integrity, displaying generosity, or exhibiting self-sacrifice. These noble choices indicate character, but for the most part, our character is revealed in much smaller events like apologizing when we’re wrong, giving to causes we believe in, being honest when it’s embarrassing, and returning shopping carts.

One of my favorite stories is about a father who asked his son to return a cart they had just used. The son protested, “C’mon, Dad, there are carts all over. No one returns them. That’s why they hire people to collect them.”

After a short argument, Mom chimed in, “For heaven’s sake, it’s no big deal. Let’s go.”

Dad was about to surrender when he saw an elderly couple walking together to return their cart. After a moment, he said, “Son, there are two kinds of people in this world: those who put their carts away and those who don’t. We’re the kind who return their shopping cart. Now go return the cart.”

This story isn’t just about grocery carts. It’s about doing the right thing in a world that seems to promote rationalizations and excuses that demean or trivialize simple acts of virtue. There are two kinds of people: those who find the strength to do what they ought to and those who find excuses not to.

People of character do the right thing even if no one else does, not because they think it will change the world but because they refuse to be changed by the world.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

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