Integrity Matters
December 22 , 2004

Postal worker’s honesty receives high scores

Question: (E-153)

Dear Jim:

Yesterday, a postal employee phoned my office to tell me that I had overpaid the local United States Post Office by $10 for shipping a package. It turns out that I had used a $20 bill, not the $10 bill that I assumed. The gentleman behind the counter asked me to accept the larger amount of change (he thought I had used a $20 bill) and I said I was not comfortable unless he was certain. Well, seven hours later the call came, and so did the confirmation that integrity matters – at our Post Office. I drove to the Post Office. I drove over, and there waiting for me was my $10. What do you think?


Integrity is everywhere, especially when folks like you allow others to demonstrate their higher values and more constructive behaviors. The answer to your question is predictable: Most people go to work every day and do their jobs, responsibly. Restaurant employees bring food to tables on clean dishes and they help their colleagues deliver customer-friendly service, over and over. A large number of well-trained physicians listen, with care, to their patients who describe thousands of aches and pains. Often these doctors sacrifice personal income just to spend extra time with those who are confused and frightened.

Your own example is powerful and reassuring. A postal employee was willing to take the time and make extra effort to assure you he would never take advantage of you, even for an easy $10 that you would never be able to trace. The message here is simple: Good people are all around us, and we ought to stop and remember them more often. A piece of wisdom, certainly brought home by your illustration, is this quote from M.H. McKee: “Integrity is one of several paths; it distinguishes itself from the others because it is the right path and the only one upon which you will never get lost.”

The postal employee you described understands one clear definition of character; which is what people do when no one is watching. Some who have been reading our columns are familiar with an expression called “verbal handshake” – a straightforward approach for conducting business between and among those in the produce industry. In the fast-paced world of buying and selling perishable fruits and vegetables, members of this global agribusiness community are able to transact deals, often involving large amounts of money, simply on the basis of oral promises, no written contracts required.

Your question confirms that the mission for each person ought to be helping r estore integrity throughout our society. Each time a person singles out a positive example of integrity, he or she is helping to build and sustain a world in which people do what they say, are forthright in their communications and a handshake solidifies any promise. Let’s keep telling stories like this one and encourage those who do things right, because they too know that integrity matters.

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