Even if we know we won't get caught, cheating people is wrong. In this week's Torah portion (Lev. 19:13-14) we learn the value of not taking unfair advantage of others.
In our story, a kid tries to beat the urge to cheat.
ARTS AND CRAFTINESS
As Cyndi watched the sun sink lower in the sky, her hopes sank along with it. She'd spent hours making pretty bead bracelets to sell at the annual school arts and crafts fair. Although a lot of people had told her how nice they were, with so many other things at the fair to choose from, very few had been willing to spend the measly $1.00 she'd written on the price-tag to buy one.
By now the flow of kids and adults who'd come to the fair had thinned to a trickle, so with a sigh, Cyndi began to pack up her wares to leave.
She looked up and saw a little kid standing across her display table.
"Yeah?" she said half-heartedly at what hardly looked like a potential customer.
The young kid picked up one of the bracelets she hadn't yet packed up. "I wanna buy this one, okay?" She looked at the price tag, then reached into her small plastic purse, and pulled out the single ten-dollar bill from within it. "This is how much it costs, right?"
Cyndi's eyes lit up. The kid had misread the price tag or maybe just didn't know the difference between bills. But Cyndi sure did and that ten-dollar bill being waved in front of her was enough to at least pay her back for what she'd spent on the materials to make the dozens of unsold bracelets. It seemed like the day wouldn't be a total loss after all.
With a smile, Cyndi took the money, which seemed to be glowing like green gold in the late afternoon sun. She put the chosen bracelet into a small bag and was about to hand it to the kid, when a little voice inside her head stopped her hand in mid air. This is dishonest, she thought. I'm only asking one dollar for these bracelets, not ten.
But then as the thought still lingered in her mind, a different voice inside answered: So what? If this kid is dumb enough to pay more, I should be smart enough to take it. Besides, I'm just about to pack up and leave, no one will ever find out what happened.
"Here's you bracelet," Cyndi said, handing the kid the bag, trying to ignore the first voice, that was now whispering: But you will know you cheated her, Cyndi...and so will God.
"Thank you!" the little girl said.
She was about to leave, when Cyndi waved her back.
"Um, it doesn't really cost as much as you gave me, so here's your change." She counted out nine dollars and gave it to the surprised kid, who happily skipped off. Cyndi hadn't even put the money in her cash box, when she heard someone clear her throat.
"I hope I'm not too late!" the well-dressed woman standing in front of her said. Cyndi gave her a questioning look as she went on.
"I own a hand-crafted jewelry and accessory store in town. I came to this fair to see if there was anything I could add to my merchandise. I noticed your bracelets - which are lovely - but I was undecided. I only like to deal with reliable people and sometimes, young people can be ... well ... not like that. But I couldn't help noticing how you'd acted so honestly with that young child just now."
She took stack of crisp bills that made what the little kid had tried to give Cyndi look like pocket-change. "I'd like to buy all that you have with you now and if they sell well, which I'm almost sure they will, I'll be needing a lot more pretty soon."
With a pouch empty of bracelets and full of money, together with the woman's business card, Cyndi danced home on air, realizing that her choices had made her a big profit - and not only with money.
Q. How did Cyndi feel at first when the little kid tried to pay too much money?
A. She felt like it was okay to take it even though it would be cheating the kid.
Q. How did she feel afterwards?
A. She felt it wasn't right to take the extra money, so she didn't.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Cyndi learned that day?
A. She'd been tempted to take advantage of the little kid's mistake and cheat her, but she resisted and saw the good it brought her, within and without.
Q. If the woman hadn't come to buy the bracelets, do you still think Cyndi would have made the right choice by giving the little kid her money back?
A. Maybe she wouldn't have seen monetary profits, but she would have profited in a big way by making herself into a better person.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. In you opinion, do you think a person can profit through cheating others?
A. Perhaps in the short term, it can look that way, but ultimately one who deals honestly comes out ahead.
Q. Why do you think that is?
A. While God hides Himself in this world, He is very much aware and involved with every detail of everyone's lives. He wants us to choose to treat each other fairly and honestly and one of the ways He works 'behind the scenes' is by 'paying us back' according to our actions. If we're good to others, He'll make sure that good ultimately comes back to us and vice-versa.