I was having dinner with my extended family over the weekend.  I told them a story of how an acquaintance of mine skipped out on a beer tab.  It is all too common a situation where the waiter forgets to charge for a beverages, the customer notices the missing charge and decides to do nothing about it. The mindset seem to be it was their mistake and I am going to use it to my advantage.

At the family dinner table we had a long discussion about what was the right thing to do.  There were differing points of view as to how each of us would deal with the situation: say nothing, pay the tab ourselves, call out the perpetrator etc. One family member suggested this was too small an issue to even be talking about. No one got hurt, why waste important time discussing it.  It was at that moment I noticed my sister taking out her iphone and reading aloud a quote from Ronald Reagan.  She had remembered it hanging in our fathers office many years ago. After she read it aloud the table went silent, seemingly endorsing the thought and ending the debate.  Here is the quote.

The character that takes command in moments of crucial choices has already been determined by a thousand other choices made earlier in seemingly unimportant moments. It has been determined by all the ‘little’ choices of years past – by all those times when the voice of conscience was at war with the voice of temptation, [which was] whispering the lie that ‘it really doesn’t matter.’ It has been determined by all the day-to-day decisions made when life seemed easy and crises seemed far away – the decision that, piece by piece, bit by bit, developed habits of discipline or of laziness; habits of self-sacrifice or self-indulgence; habits of duty and honor and integrity – or dishonor and shame

- President Ronald Reagan

I subsequently found this the quote below which makes and even more dramatically point on the same topic.

“In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

-Martin Niemoller

My final thoughts… corruption thrives on the willingness of people to overlook the small stuff. We think, “It’s not worth the effort,” until later the small things become big things and the corruption becomes so ubiquitous it is not known as corruption anymore, it is just is how thing get done around here. This is the time when the quality of life for the people will get real bad real fast.

The best way to prosperity is to take action on the little things, don’t buy into the false belief they don’t matter, they do!