The truth you should handle

Last Thursday night my housemate and I went to A&P to pick up a few household items. It was late, close to 1:30 a.m., and the store was almost empty. After we had found what we were looking for we stood in line and browsed the headlines of tabloids and celebrity gossip magazines and were altogether paying very little attention to our surroundings. Feeling utterly unsympathetic toward the fact that Tara Reid had a plastic surgery nightmare, I noticed the person in front of me in line. I had seen him wandering around the store but I thought very little of him until the cashier asked for I.D. to verify his VISA card.

He shifted uncomfortably, pressing his back against the counter behind him as he rifled through his wallet. That’s when I noticed he had something large and round shoved up under the back of his shirt. He was stealing. The cashier hadn’t noticed anything odd apart from the fact that he said he didn’t have a driver’s license and it was his dad’s card anyway and all she did was lecture him about always carrying I.D.

I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t say a word. I am almost more ashamed to say that, upon realizing what was happening, the first thought to cross my mind was “It’s got nothing to do with me; it’s not my responsibility to say anything.” It may have been the most blatant lie I have ever tried to tell myself because the truth is that it was no one’s responsibility more than it was mine.

I’m usually the kind of person who believes I deserve to have a say in the things that happen around me. I want to be in the loop and I’m not shy about voicing my opinions about the things that matter to me.

Why, then, when faced with the opportunity to speak up about something that should be important to all of us, did I suddenly lose my nerve?

I think the short answer is fear. I had no idea what would happen if I were to speak up and I was so concerned with avoiding what would certainly have been an uncomfortable, though undoubtedly temporary, situation that I let my fear outweigh my urge to say what I felt.

Our fixation with avoiding personal conflict has grown so big that we are willing to put a person’s right to be left alone ahead of our own right to stand up for what’s right.

All for the sake of avoiding an awkward situation.

Life is full of awkward situations. We need to get used to it.

As an aspiring journalist, I want everything I do to be aimed at brining out the truth and not letting anyone get away with anything less.

Because if we can’t even stand up for something as simple as telling the truth then there really is something to be afraid of.

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