One evening, my daughter, Celese, heard a noise outside her house. She flipped on the outside lights, and she and her husband went to investigate. What they found made Celese’s heart sink. The tires on their pickup were slashed. Celese’s sister was visiting them for the evening, and the worn-out tires on her old car were slashed, too. The pickup tires made Celese mad, but her sister’s bald tires made her angrier. Her younger sister was struggling to buy a new, small house and make ends meet, and she couldn’t afford new tires.

As Celese thought about it, she was sure she knew who had done it. She ran a small bookkeeping business. Most of her clients were small, but she had gotten a new, much larger one. She was learning that those she worked for that had the most money were the ones who tried to undercut her pay, if they paid at all. Unfortunately, the owner of this company was also asking her to do some unscrupulous things. She refused and decided they needed to part ways. He wasn’t subtle about making some threats.

She thought some of her neighbors might have video cameras, and maybe she could collect some evidence. But then she considered that perhaps it would be easier to play her hand against his conscience and fear of legal action. She sent him a simple text that said, “That was a stupid thing to do with all the cameras we have in the neighborhood.”

His reply was immediate and panicked. “I’m sorry. You’re right; that was a stupid thing to do. Please don’t call the police. It would ruin my family and my business. I will pay to make it right.”

Neither the truck nor the car could be driven, so Celese had someone come remove the tires. She got new ones that were the best she could find. She sent the man the bill for all of it. When he got it, he answered in an obviously surprised text.

“You are only charging me $1400 for the two sets of tires and $500 for labor? You’re not going to charge me like $20,000 to not go to the police.”

Celese responded with a text of her own. “What I charged was what it cost us. If I charged you more, it would be more like blackmail, which is wrong. If a person is dishonest with others, he or she can expect to get dishonesty in return.”

Not too long passed before the man called. “I thought a lot about what you said. Almost everyone I have dealt with has tried to cheat me, so I felt it was okay for me to cheat others in return. I realize I was simply compounding the problem and justifying their actions. I’m sorry for what I did but grateful for what you taught me. I plan to change my business to one built on trust. If you ever forgive me for what I’ve done, I’d love to have you back as a bookkeeper, and I would never ask you to do something dishonest again.”

Celese said she’d think about it. The man said even though she wasn’t asking for more, he was going to send extra as a thank you, and she need not feel guilty about accepting it.

When Celese got the check, she was surprised to find it was more than double what she had billed him for. Along with it came a nice note, again expressing his gratitude.

“What are you going to do with the extra money?” her husband asked.

Celese grinned. “Well, part of it is going into a security system to help keep the honest people honest.”