Marta and I used to run with our dogs in the canyon. We knew it was a violation of the city’s ordinance, but we did it anyway. We had our reasons.
1. We ran early, often before dawn. If you combined the weight of our three dogs—we had about 300 pounds of fur, muscles and teeth. I’m not exaggerating, my beagle was extremely overweight and one of Marta’s dogs weighed 140 pounds…and she had two. We felt safer with our dogs.
2. Running on the canyon’s dirt path is much better for our joints and innards than running on concrete or cement.
3. We liked running in the canyon.
4. No dogs in the canyon is a very silly ordinance.
We were caught and received fines of $360. Marta paid her fine. I took mine to court.
After listening to complainants whining over their fines for offenses much more grievous than mine, the judge looked at me and said, “It says here that you were walking your dog.”
I launched into my reasons of why I thought it was a ridiculous, not to mention sexist, ordinance and was promptly rewarded with a lecture on how to rally my neighbors and fight an unjust law, a lowering of the fine from $360 to $100 and a drop of the criminal charges.
Years later, Marta divorced and consequently returned to the work force. Our morning runs (now on the concrete sidewalks) ended. Marta called me one day, furious. She had applied for her dream job and had considered her new position a done deal until they sadly told her that they couldn’t hire her because she had a criminal record! (All for walking her dog in the canyon.)
Theresa, a financial analyst, enjoyed a generous salary and regular lunches at a fast food place near her work. One afternoon after ordering her typical meal at her favorite lunch spot, she found that she didn’t have the cash on hand to pay for her lunch. The owner said, “That’s okay, you come here all the time. Just pay me next time.” So, Theresa never went back. She got a free lunch! If she went back, she’d have to pay, so she never did. But, what did she lose? Her ability to look that owner in the eye and all her future lunches at her favorite place.
Clair and Eric hired a young woman to stay with their seven children for a week while they went on a trip to Hawaii. They agreed to pay her, but never established a price. At the end of the week they gave the young woman a muumuu and a box of macadamia nuts. What had their vacation child care cost them? Not much, unless you consider their reputation and the goodwill of the young woman (who never spoke to them again, but spoke about them behind their back plenty.)
Everything has a cost, although not all expenses can be measure by dollars and pennies. A lost friendship. A smeared good name. Freedom from unpaid debts. A sense of integrity. Carefully consider all costs--fiduciary, social and emotional.
So, whether you’re parking illegally, walking your dog, or cheating on your taxes, my advice is DO NOT DO IT. Be honest. Always. Period. Say what you’ll do and then do what you’ve said you would. Make and keep promises. And contracts. And friends.
Look around your home and heart—is there something there that belongs to someone else? Return it. Replace it. Make amends. Say you’re sorry and let it go. No matter how much money you have, you can’t afford to hold onto anything that doesn’t belong to you.