I got this email and wanted to share the message with all of you.
Some thirty years ago, in a school on New York’s lower East side, a Mrs. Frankel gave an arithmetic test to her third –grade class. When the papers were marked, she discovered that twelve girls had written the same wrong answer to an arithmetic problem.
There is nothing really new about cheating on exams. Perhaps that was why Mrs. Frankel didn’t even say anything about it. She only asked the twelve girls to remain after school.
They did, with fear in their hearts, for they knew Mrs. Frankel wanted to discipline them. They were right, but only in part. Mrs. Frankel asked no questions. She said nothing. She gave no punishment.
As soon as she was alone with the guilty pupils, Mrs. Frankel wrote on the blackboard the twenty-one words above.
The measure of a man’s real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out.
That’s how she expressed herself.
I don’t know about the other eleven girls. Speaking for myself, I can say it was the most important single lesson of my life.
My life happens to have been live up till now in a time of fear, uncertainty and danger. It is good of course, to learn from history that all times have been full of fear, uncertainty and danger. But a person wants more than that; he wants tools to work with, sign-posts to guide him, yardsticks to measure by.
Thirty years after being introduced to the above words, they still seem to me to be one of the best yardsticks I have ever met. Not because they give as a way to measure others, but because they give us a way to measure ourselves.
Few of us are asked to make great decisions about nations going to war or armies going to battle. But all of us are called upon daily to make a great many personal decisions. Should the purse, found in the street, be put into a pocket or turned over to the police? Should the extra change you received at the grocer’s be forgotten or returned?
Nobody will know. Nobody except you, but you have to live with yourself, and it is always better to live with someone you respect, because respect develops confidence, and confidence is a great weapon, especially in times of fear, uncertainty and danger.