title of the article carried in many newspapers
and many web sites was some variation of the following:
"Judge in Alabama Forces Shoplifters to Wear 'I Am a
Thief' Sign Outside Store."
title did not actually represent the whole story.
The truth was that Attalla City Judge Kenneth Robertson Jr.,
gave at least one of the shoplifters, Lisa King Fithian, 46,
a choice. Given the choice of 60 days in jail or standing
outside Wal-Mart from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. holding a sign
reading "I am a thief; I stole from Wal-Mart," she
chose the latter.
maintained her innocence and said her conviction
was based on a misunderstanding: She said she was taking a
$7 item to the service desk because it would not scan.
the store, she said people who saw her wearing
the sandwich board commented that the punishment was
manager Neil Hawkins said "The only comments
we've heard so far have been positive. Most of them thought
it was a good thing."
noted how embarrassing it would be for the public
to see someone who got caught shoplifting. "Maybe
they'll think twice about doing it," he said.
news story really had me thinking. In fact, I
took an informal survey of many people that I met over the
week that this story was running around my head.
it better to suffer shame for a short time and
get it over with or to sit in jail for a longer time hoping
no one will find out about it?
would motivate someone to choose the punishment
of standing in front of the store with a sign that brings
shame and what would inspire the choice of sitting in jail
for 60 days?
I think this news story is an interesting parable
for much of our lives. Many of us face this same question on
some level at some point in our lives. Often, we are given
the choice of doing one thing with some shame or something
else that allows us to hope we can get away without being
shamed. It's not always so clear which choice is the
are other questions to think about.
you rather that your spouse not have a job at all
if the job that's offered is below your barometer of shame?
you rather have a child who will spend their life
in "penitentiary" than face the shame of getting
would you spend your life in a "jail"
of a difficult marriage rather than face the shame of going
you lose a friend to spare the shame of asking
for forgiveness? Would you suffer bad health instead of the
"shame" of going to a doctor?
asked many people what they would do
given the choices presented to Lisa King Fithian.
Which would you choose?