About a week ago, as I was at the CVS by the Georgia Avenue / Petworth metro station, I witnessed two teenage boys stuff candy and packaged cupcakes, etc in their pockets. I promptly told a store employee. The employee seemed somewhat lackadaisical about my report, but did tell someone up front to watch the boys. Later that evening, over drinks after our soccer match, I was recounting the story and once I mentioned I ratted the kids out, I immediately got a quizzical look and was asked “where did you grow up?”
That response made me think about morals, values and social responsibility. How does one affect the other? The gentleman (someone I had just met) who asked where I was from explained to me that he had grown up overseas and he learned early on the importance of looking the other way. He said that there was no way he would’ve told the store clerk about the boys for fear of retribution. This sparked a conversation about what everyone standing nearby would have done.
Do we have a responsibility to look after others as if we knew them? Was I way out of line telling the clerk that the boys had stolen? In my mind, the answers to those questions are, respectively, yes and no. I think about how I grew up — my father was military and we moved every few years. However, my parents were lucky enough to find a group of friends who were similar in age, and also had young children. As our families traveled the country, we somehow usually ended up living in the same cities. This group of military families became like extended family, since we were all so far away from our “real” extended families. Anyways, my point is that growing up in this community, I knew that if I did something wrong and one of the adults in our circle saw it, it was the same as my parents witnessing it. I was ratted out more than once (not that I ever did anything wrong — dream child!) and to be honest, it was for my own good. I know that most folks don’t live in communities like that anymore, but is it totally crazy to think that we could begin to return to some of those same ideals?
If someone saw my (hypothetical) child doing something wrong, I’d appreciate a heads up. Especially for something as potentially serious as theft. As a parent, I’d want to know.
So, what would you have done?