Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Question of Principle

I went to the Starbucks in Harvard Square a few days ago and was deeply disturbed when I noticed that the display case of pastries contained quite a few flies. I was disgusted when I saw these flies  sitting on the food and promptly notified the barista who was taking an order at the time and her response was simple "yea I know, but I can't do anything about it." I was instantly puzzled by this response. She was the one opening the door, taking food out, and giving it to people. I didn't understand how she couldn't do anything about it. I provided her with a suggestion "you can leave the door open and allow the flies to leave the display." Her response was "yea but then more will come in." Then I confronted her, "aren't you going to do anything about it? This is people's food." Her response was veering on complacent "I know my manager, we're not going to do anything about it." I then asked her "so you are okay with feeding people dirty food, just to be clear, do you not have any principles?" Her response was nothing and I could tell she was getting uncomfortable and was eager to return to the customer whose order was half-finished. Obviously this woman didn't have any principles because, despite what her manager says, it's not okay to serve people dirty food. Her being the one who actually serves the food should at least have the conscience or consideration to do something about it. So why is it, when push-came-to-shove, this woman didn't do the right thing, even after confronted? My conjecture is that she might be afraid to lose her job, but I would assume any higher-up at Starbucks would see serving dirty food as grounds for losing one's job anyway. This brings me to a bigger question: how many of us are willing to always do the right thing or stand up for what's right when it comes into question? I've always been slightly loud-mouthed; when I see an injustice I say something about it and rarely has it caused any trouble for me. I agree, there are shades of grey where it is harder to do something when something else that we find important is also at stake, but why are people so afraid of losing something material instead of fighting for what's right? Isn't a loss of personal principle just as important or worth fighting for? Furthermore, if we don't have our personal values to hold on to, then what do we have? A minimum-waged job? Some old pastries? What would you do if you were this woman? We've all been there, but would we stand up for what's right or simply stand overpowered by our fear? Being a person of value isn't easy, but it's important. If, for nothing else, when we leave this earth we don't bring the things that we think are important to us. Those all stay behind. Our values, however, are what transcend mortality and persist after we're gone. For some of us, it's very clear what they are, but for others it's difficult if you're not even sure what your values are. Hopefully anyone reading this will take a moment and think about what your values are and how much you're willing to fight for them while you enjoy your Sunday.

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