I have to begin by telling you about an incident that happened to me a while ago. I was driving back to work from lunch and came upon one of those cameras which take your picture while simultaneously giving a ticket. It has been many years since I had been given a ticket. It seems I was traveling eleven miles over the speed limit. When you receive your ticket in the mail it is attached to a picture of you — barely recognizable, I might add — along with a summons to either pay the ticket or appear in court. There is a form that is attached for you to complete if, in fact, the ticket was given to you in error. (Remember, the picture is barely recognizable.)
They also offer you the opportunity to write a letter along with your payment in the event you felt the ticket was given to you unfairly. Hmmm, a tempting option!
I happened to drive to this same area the following Saturday and reviewed the speed-limit signs in the event they weren’t marked properly. I thought to myself, “I can compose a heartfelt letter saying I was unjustly ticketed. I’m a writer; who better to do that than me?” As it turns out, there were three areas where the speed limit was marked. In my hurry to get back to work, I didn’t see the signs. I came home and wrote the check out for the ticket and mailed it in. No need to send a letter.
My sister, Mary, and I were discussing this incident and we asked the question: how many people try to avoid paying by saying it wasn’t them or it was given to them in error? I was even considering it, but in examining my conscience, something told me it would have been wrong.
Have we found ourselves on more than one occasion ready to cheat or lie just to save a few dollars? As an example, perhaps we are given too much change, or not charged properly for something we purchased or we realized an error was made in your bank account to our favor. I remember when my kids were young, I had purchased a ham for $9.00. When I put away the groceries and looked closer at the receipt, I noticed the clerk accidentally charged me $.90 in error for the ham. I drove to the store the next day and showed the receipt to the store manager. I will admit, I thought about ignoring it. I realized, in further thinking about it, what message was I sending my kids if I didn’t correct it? I also wasn’t sure if the store clerk would be charged for the error. The temptation to forget about it was there. My conscience said no, go back and correct the error.
Call it Catholic guilt, or in my case I can imagine my mother shaking her head and asking the question, “Are you willing to save a few dollars for the cost of your soul?” We are given moments every day where our conscience comes into play and we make the wrong choice. We usually refer to these moments as just little “slip-ups.” The “slip-ups” add up and at the end of the day, we have piled up a few reasons to commit sin.
I know it’s challenging to keep things going and do the right thing all the time; especially when we see other people who appear to have it all, and they don’t look as if they have any struggles. I think we try to categorize our “slip-ups” as justification for always having to struggle for everything; saying to ourselves “I’m sure God will understand, He knows most of the time I do the right thing!”
Life presents challenges to everyone even if it doesn’t seem like it. In reality we are presented moments daily where if we think about it, God is there to help us. Maybe we avoided an accident by going a different direction or we received a good report from the doctor. We lost something and later found it. It happens all the time. This is God orchestrating good things in our lives. Another example for me happened on New Year’s Eve. Before leaving for work I took my garbage to the dumpster and accidentally dropped my keys in the dumpster along with the garbage. I live in an apartment and fortunately the maintenance man was around and was able to help me get the keys. I had to contact my office at work to tell them I was going to be late. Normally I would be on the freeway at 7:45. I wasn’t able to get there until some time after 8:30.
God in His infinite wisdom had interfered, I believe. You see, apparently a tree had fallen on the freeway and they closed it down. They said this occurred at 7:45. No one was hurt, fortunately. Hundreds were late to work and likely frustrated. I think it was no accident that I dropped my keys, which was a mishap, but I also avoided a tree falling near me or on my car.
God is there always, during the good times and bad. It’s easy to justify making poor choices on the basis of “woe is me,” but in reality, God knows it all. He wants us to make the right choice. He will be there for us even if we don’t realize it through the good and bad.
Let’s try and remember God doesn’t charge for our soul; His reward is freedom with Him and the saints and angels! In the long run, I guess it’s worth it just to go ahead and pay the ticket.
Copyright 2018 Catherine Mendenhall-Baugh