by TOM R. KOVACH
When you come to a stop sign in the country and it is broad daylight and you see clearly in every direction, do you still stop your car as you are supposed to do according to the law?
One day there was a letter-to-the-editor in our local paper. It told a story illustrating this value that spoke to me deeply.
A young boy and his father would go fishing at the family cabin on a lake outside the city where they lived, as often as possible. They both loved fishing, and it was a time for father and son to spend some time just with each other. It was their private time, and they both enjoyed it very much.
One spring day, the day before the bass season opener, they went to the lake for the weekend. After supper they went down to the dock and proceeded to fish and catch pan fish, sunnies and bluegills. The boy began practicing for the upcoming bass season, by putting on a different lure and tried his hand at casting. It was evening by now with a moon coming over the pine trees, reflecting the tranquil lake. It was quiet, peaceful and relaxing and just the two of them fishing. But then the boy’s pole doubled over. He had caught something big! Both son and father knew it was a big fish.
But that young lad learned that even when nobody is looking, we don’t cheat, we don’t cut corners.
The lad skillfully pulled the fish alongside the dock, and the father helped him work it out of the water and onto the dock. It was a bass. The biggest one either one of them had ever seen. It was also a few hours before midnight. Bass season had not legally opened. Therefore the fish, by rights, would have to be returned to the water. “We have to throw it back son,” the father said.
The boy protested. “But dad, nobody is here but the two of us. Nobody will ever know!”
The father shook his head and said softly, “We’ll know.”
“I’ll never catch one this big again,” the boy said sadly.
“There will be other fish,” said the father.
They let the fish go and sat quietly on the dock, just the two of them. The boy grew up to be a man and a successful professional person. And he never did catch a fish as large as that big bass he snagged that night.
But that young lad learned that even when nobody is looking, we don’t cheat, we don’t cut corners. You do the right thing. It’s not always easy. Temptation can be great. Especially if we think the little indiscretion would not directly hurt anybody. But not doing the right thing when nobody is looking does indeed hurt someone. And that someone is ourselves. Whether it be fishing, taxes, traffic signs, etc., doing the right thing when nobody is looking, makes us who we are.
TOM R. KOVACH is a freelance writer from Minnesota.