For the past few years, Clear Horizons Academy, a private school for autistic children, has held an auction to help fund scholarships to pay tuition for special needs children. Tickets to the event include entry to the silent auction, a formal dinner, entertainment, and a live auction featuring beautiful art pieces, furniture, and even a baby grand piano. It’s a wonderful event, focusing on autism, and the progress children can make by having their special needs understood.
My dear friend, Tiffany Wood-McCarthy, is on the board of trustees, and because of her, I was lucky enough to snag a couple tickets to this year’s event. When we showed up, the silent auction was underway. Gary and I perused the tables, bidding on the things we thought we could use, knowing the money was going to a good cause.
Among the items featured were a few canvas prints from talented local artists. One—by Liz Lemmon Swindle—happened to be a stunning portrait of Christ holding a little boy on his shoulder in a wheat field. Raylene, another of my friends, fell instantly in love with the portrait, and continued to increase her bid through the duration of the auction. In the end, her number was the last one on the bid ticket, and she laughed with glee as we left the silent auction to go into the next room for the dinner.
Ten minutes later, a few of us snuck out to have a group picture taken—my four girlfriends and I—in our nice clothes. Someone had donated a beautiful island themed Christmas tree for the silent auction, so we snuck over to pose in front of the tree. As we did, Raylene noticed that the canvas of Christ was gone. “Hey,” she said. “Where did my painting go?”
Tiffany scrunched her forehead. “Maybe they started taking the items to the register already.” And then we all went back to finish our dinners and participate in the live auction.
At the end of the night, though, the painting couldn’t be found. Sometime between the silent auction and the dinner, it was stolen.
Now, it’s bad enough to steal something. No matter what, it’s dishonest. But how does one wrap their mind around stealing a picture of CHRIST? From a children’s charity, no less. To me, that’s tantamount to stealing a stained glass window from a church or temple. It just isn’t done. Like I said, stealing is a terrible thing anyway, but…if you’re stealing, how can you dare look at a painting like that as you carry it out of the building? Wouldn’t you feel Him watching your dishonest actions?
I just don’t get it.
Last month, I was running errands and picked up a couple of Christmas gifts. As I went through the checkout, I realized I didn’t have my checkbook, and because I was digging through my purse, didn’t listen to the dollar amount the clerk announced, just blindly ran my credit card through the machine. Luckily, I have a habit of scanning receipts before I leave a store. When I looked closely, I realized I’d only been charged for one of the two items in my bag.
From the doorway, I looked back. The lines were very long, and I was in a bit of a hurry. I’d watched the lady scan my items, and she had scanned both—so maybe (I tried to convince myself) they were on a two-for-one sale? But the original purchase was for ten dollars, and I knew I should owe another fifteen.
What should I do?
It would have been so easy to walk out, dump the bag in my trunk and feel glad I’d saved myself fifteen dollars. Except then I’d have had to live with knowing I hadn’t paid for that item, and every time I looked at it, I’d feel a pang of guilt that I’d stolen it. Even though it wasn’t intentional.
I turned around. A security guard stopped me in the front of the store. “Did you have a return?” he asked.
“No,” I said. “Actually, I was checking my receipt and noticed I didn’t get charged for one of my items. I need to go back and pay for it.”
The security guard was so impressed, he walked me to the front of the line where I’d originally paid and asked the embarrassed employee to hurry and ring me up again. It cost me less than five minutes and fifteen dollars to be honest that day.
As I drove home, I wondered about how I would have reacted if the situation were reversed. Then I remembered it had been. Last year I was charged seventeen dollars for a tube of toothpaste. It was a complete computer error, but you can believe I was all over it. I marched myself to customer service immediately to get my fifteen dollars back and though I wasn’t angry at the store employees, I sighed a breath of relief that I’ve taught myself to be diligent in checking my receipts. This year, I had another opportunity to feel that relief, though from the other side of the spectrum.
I don’t know how to live with small dishonesties like that. I’ve spent my life believing in the importance of honesty, which is why I have such a hard time understanding how someone could steal a portrait of Christ. How will they live with themselves?
I don’t understand the universe, and I can’t answer that question. All I can do is promise myself that I, personally, will choose to make honest choices and try to be a good example of honesty to my children.
As for the auction, I’m thinking next year Clear Horizons may have to hire security. But it’s like Tiffany said. “If they really needed a portrait of Christ bad enough to steal it, I feel sorry for them.”
Yep. I agree.