We Only Took One of Each

A decision to steal from a business was based on wrong reasoning.

      After moving to Colorado Springs, a new friend paved my way into a sales job with a promotional products company. The company’s owner, Phillip, hired me and then introduced me to his staff of two other sales representatives. Since the pay was on a straight commission basis with no salary, I was given some of the walk-in prospects and a few minor accounts.

      To familiarize myself with the many products available, I delved into the office’s catalogs.  There were 100s of them and each featured 1000s of promotional items like golf shirts, pens, flashlights, desk items, coffee cups and a myriad of anything imaginable. Our clients’ objectives ranged from increasing their sales, gaining a better image in the community and boosting employees’ morale. Affixing a company’s logo to a product via embroidery, screen printing, imprinting or stamping, promotional goods benefited their businesses. It was a lot of fun to study the possibilities for each client.

      During the slowdown of the Christmas holiday season one of the other sales reps, Richard, and I opined about opening our own promotions business. We approached a local embroidery/screen printing shop about trading space at their business in exchange for them receiving 10% of our gross sales on all our business. Upon a verbal agreement we decided to start our business and move after the first of the year.

      One major hurdle loomed for our future business – we did not possess any of our own promotional catalogs. And it was going to take time to request and receive new ones from each company. We both reasoned Phillip’s company had several copies of each catalog and taking one of them would be okay. Besides, he would not miss one of several and each catalog and companies did not charge for them.

      Over a few weeks in time, I helped myself to about 50 catalogs; Richard did the same. We only took one catalog; if there was only one of a kind, we did not take it. Our new place of business allowed us to gradually set up our office space so we would be ready to open after January 1. Right after Christmas Richard and I gave Phillip notice of our intentions.

      There was a businessman, Andy, in Colorado Springs whom I met right after moving there. He and I were part of an international Christian men’s group with a chapter in the city. On a regular basis Andy and I talked about business, discussed other matters and attended our group’s Bible studies and seminars. During my business transition, I mentioned the move and the catalogs.

      As I told Andy about taking only one of each catalog, his face grimaced. He said, “Charles, you are stealing from Phillip; you have to return everything you’ve stolen from him.” With my reasoning, I replied, “These catalogs were free with no charge to him and we only took one of each so Phillip was left with at least one catalog per promotions company.” A bit surprised, Andy quietly spoke, “It is still stealing, Charles. You must return what you took.” I reacted, “Until we have the catalogs, we have no business.” Puzzled that I still did not understand him, Andy said, “It is still stealing.”  

      Reluctantly, I agreed with him. Even though there was not a dollar value attached to the catalogs, we were taking something that did not belong to us. And perhaps if we had asked permission to take some catalogs, Phillip might have granted our request. 

      I told my partner, Richard, about my conversation with Andy and he agreed that we should take the catalogs back to Phillip’s office. After the office closed in the evening we shelved the catalogs to their correct places in the catalog room. When all were returned, I approached Phillip at his office desk. As I told him of our actions, Phillip reacted in two ways. First, I expected his reaction that he could not believe we had stolen from him. But his second reaction was unexpected. He said, “If I didn’t know about it, why would you tell me?” I related to Phillip about Andy’s and my conversation. Then, I told him in my Christian faith that I committed a sin in stealing from him. At that point, I lost Phillip’s trust and my integrity was gone with him.

      Richard’s and my business struggled from the start and eventually failed. A few years later I strolled into Phillip’s office to invite him to one of our Christian group’s luncheons. We talked briefly and Phillip said he was busy and could not attend. He was still confused as to why I confessed my stealing transgression, when he was not even aware of it. I related how important it was to be right with God and His commandments. And my confession to God cleansed my soul with forgiveness. In his confusion, I believed Phillip did not understand God’s ways and the principle of forgiveness.

In reading Exodus 20:15 and Ephesians 4:28, it’s a good thing I followed Andy’s advice.

Questions to Ponder?                                                                                                                                             1. When you have stolen something, how have you reasoned that it is okay to do it?                         Do you hang on to guilt, let stress eat you up or think about getting things off your chest?                                                      2. Do you have someone that counsels you on a regular basis?                                                                           If you don’t think about interviewing someone who has your same faith and gender to meet with once a week, bi-weekly or monthly.                                                                                                                         3. Think about how God used my stealing transgression for His and my benefit. Our business was partially based on a lie: we took things that did not belong to us. By confessing my sin to God and Phillip, I was forgiven by God and my confession became a testimony of faith to Phillip.

We Only Took One of Each is written by Charles H. Castle. The purpose of this non-fiction short story is to encourage, build, inspire, entertain, and give opportunities to laugh, smile and questions to ponder. His book Where are the Instructions? is available now and another book Who Do You Trust? will be coming out in 2021. If you are interested in giving the author feedback or have a publisher lead for his next book, contact him at CharlesCastle07@gmail.com or CharlesCastle.com.  

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